Cranfield achieves Top 50 recognition

24 June 2018 was International Women in Engineering Day and two Cranfield colleagues, Fiona Charnley and Professor Emma Sparks, were named in the Telegraph’s Top 50 Women in Engineering returners. The list features the UK’s top female stars working in engineering or an allied sector/discipline, having either returned after a break of at least 18 months or transferred to engineering from another sector.

Find out about their work and how they feel to have been honoured by watching the video.

At Cranfield we are committed to actively encouraging women into STEM subjects and to help them recognise the varied opportunities within these disciplines. We were proud to be one of this year's sponsors of International Women in Engineering Day.

Meet some of our women engineers

Congratulations to all of our nominees and winners

Professor Emma Sparks

 Dr Emma Sparks Emma Sparks
Head of the Centre for Systems Engineering
at Cranfield University

Professor Emma Sparks began her career as a government research scientist looking at lower limb injuries within the military, having completed a degree in sports science and biomechanics at Chichester University. After a number of years working on programmes to design future soldier clothing and equipment for the UK and internationally, Professor Sparks retrained as a systems engineer by completing her MSC and PhD in systems engineering at Cranfield University.

Professor Sparks’ passion and interest in human performance as a consequence of her first degree and more laterally as a qualified osteopath has given her a unique perspective when transferring to the engineering field. She has worked hard to champion the synergies between science and engineering with successes including international work with the Australian government on their future soldier systems programme, which fused human performance and systems engineering skills.

Since joining Cranfield, Professor Sparks has acted as course director for a suite of postgraduate educational programmes and worked with government, industry and academia to lead the way in establishing the UK’s first defence and security related level 7 master’s apprenticeship – the Systems Engineering Masters Apprenticeship (SEMAP). As a result, Cranfield University was the first in England to offer an apprenticeship at master’s level in this field and is continuing to develop and expand its portfolio, with Professor Sparks playing a key role in this process.

Professor Sparks began the work on SEMAP in 2014 as part of the Defence Growth Partnership trailblazer group contributing to the standard and assessment plan and leading on the academic provision. In developing the course, Professor Sparks proactively reached out to industry to initiate discussions and publicise Cranfield’s desire to support such an important government initiative, which enhances accessibility to master’s level education within STEM. Professor Sparks saw this as an opportunity to work with key industry organisations to secure the future of STEM and to enable increased diversity in the student body, including the desire to promote women within engineering.

Around 100 professionals from the defence industry are now part of the SEMAP programme. Some are new graduates, but many are mid-career, with the necessary experience but not the formal qualifications, or have moved from other domains. Professor Sparks has led the way in encouraging female students to join the course and the number of female engineering students taking the programme has approximately doubled since its inception. More widely, Professor Sparks has mentored young female engineers and serves as a role model for women reaching senior positions within engineering.

Professor Sparks is also involved in the International Council for Systems Engineering and works to promote women in systems engineering. She presented to UK Government ministers at the opening of the Defence Solutions Centre, and also at the South East Midlands Enterprise Partnership in 2016 to promote the benefits of master’s level apprenticeships. Her work has been covered in magazines such as The Engineer, and civil service publications such as Civil Service World.

Dr Fiona Charnley

 Fiona Charnley Fiona Charnley
Senior Lecturer in Circular Innovation
at Cranfield University

Dr Fiona Charnley has moved from industrial design with an emphasis on mass production to the area of circular economy and long-term thinking about environmental, social and economic sustainability. She has been instrumental in establishing Cranfield as a leader in circular economy research and teaching with a view to encouraging societies to move away from single-use, linear economic models.

After graduating with a BA (Hons) in Industrial Design and Technology from Loughborough University, Dr Charnley has moved towards research and teaching in the development of more innovative and sustainable products, services and systems. Since 2011 Dr Charnley has developed a relationship with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation that has led to the world's first executive masters course in circular economy, Technology Innovation and Management for a Circular Economy. This online course will provide professionals from across industrial sectors with technological knowledge, system-level understanding and personal competency to design, evaluate and manage the implementation of transformational solutions for the future. Content from the course will also be available as a series of six short courses, recently launched by Dr Charnley at an Ellen MacArthur CE100 event in partnership with companies such as Unilever, Phillips and Renault.

Through the relationship cultivated by Dr Charnley, Cranfield was the second university to join the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Pioneer University programme, and in 2013 also joined the Schmidt-MacArthur Fellowship Programme, a joint initiative between the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the Schmidt Family Foundation in the US to develop the skills and innovative thinking required to transition to a circular economy. Under Dr Charnley’s leadership, Cranfield has also hosted successful summer schools, round tables and hackathons with businesses exploring the potential of this area.

Dr Charnley’s current research includes a portfolio of projects focusing on circular innovation including ‘Manufacturing Immortality’; a project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council in collaboration with seven other universities and project partners such as Dstl and the National Nuclear Laboratory. The research is looking at self-healing hybrid man-made/biological materials with the inherent ability to sense and repair damage, thus eliminating the need for replacement, and what the economic and societal implications of that are. Dr Charnley is also leading efforts at Cranfield to set up a centre for doctoral training on circular economy to train future engineers and scientists in circular economy thinking and implementing it as an industrial reality.

Dr Charnley has worked across multiple stakeholder groups to raise awareness of sustainability. During her time working as a research fellow at De Montfort University, she managed an EPSRC-funded project to engage school communities in sustainable design principles. This role involved working with multiple stakeholders from primary and secondary school pupils, teachers and governors through to designers and architects on the UK Government’s Building Schools for the Future initiative.

Dr Charnley is currently taking part in the Leadership Foundation's Aurora Programme, which aims to develop women leader

Dr Joy Sumner

Dr Joy Sumner 
Dr Joy Sumner
Lecturer in Energy Materials 

Since earning her Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD degrees in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge, Dr Joy Sumner has focused her research on understanding the degradation of materials vital for generating energy. Ultimately, this research supports the consistent, reliable supply of energy to end users, as well as the avoidance of unforeseen, expensive maintenance in power generation systems. 

In addition to her extensive research and lecturing commitments at Cranfield’s Centre for Power Engineering, Joy presents at a large number of national and international conferences, and is currently supporting seven PhD students on a number of energy-related research projects. 

Her professional memberships include CEng and CSci through the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining; and Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Dr Sumner has worked comprehensively with the EPSRC, EU Framework 7, TSB (now Innovate UK) and industry, including Siemens, EDF and Porvair.  

Research projects include modelling the lifetimes of gas turbine materials in low CO2-producing fuels; studying the effects of moving to cyclic operations as renewable energy sources enter the grid; assessing the suitability of new materials systems for operation in high temperature environments; and designing test rigs to validate the use of materials in novel and conventional operational regimes. 

The value of her contributions to the energy sector through research output, networking, teaching and professional membership so early in her career makes Joy a strong candidate for Top 50 Women in Engineering. 

Dr Sarah Morris

Sarah Morris  Sarah Morris
Lecturer in Digital Forensics / Course Director: MSc Digital Forensics

Sarah’s commitment to the area of forensics was obvious from the very start of her academic career, as she studied a number of master’s level short courses at the same time as working towards her PhD within the Cranfield Forensic Institute. She has been a lecturer since June 2012 and it’s testament to her impact on students, community outreach and the wider subject area that just four years later (in January 2016) she was asked to lead the Cranfield University Digital Forensics MSc.

Sarah works on the deconstruction of digital devices to gain access to stored data, then reverse engineers the stored data to identify evidence of what the device has been used for. This might include obtaining chat history, web browsing data and photos/videos. She is also leading research into a standardised methodology for removing and reading data chips from mobile devices. She has assisted law enforcement with current investigations by providing expertise on various aspects of digital forensics including: thumbnail caches, virtual machines, optical media and recovery of information from unallocated space. Her work is never-ending, as each new software and device update presents a fresh challenge. 

Sarah regularly partakes in community outreach, most notably by leading a one-day forensic computing course for students aged 12-18 entitled “The case of the stolen artwork”, which is delivered to various schools across the UK. She designed this course for children to teach them about the importance of being safe online. She does this by showing them the forensic evidence left by using devices such as smart phones. 

Sarah epitomises the modern academic – her work is firmly rooted in practical application and she never stops developing her own knowledge to keep pace with changing technology. She brings that spirit into the lecture rooms and laboratories too. Having only just formally taken over leading the Digital Forensics course in 2016, she took the MSc through a major course review before successfully obtaining full GCHQ accreditation – making the Cranfield Digital Forensics course the first MSc of its kind to gain the accreditation. 

She has championed the redevelopment of digital forensics labs to ensure that they are fit for purpose and aligned with the most recent technology. To that end, she has acted as a reference and reviewer for several digital forensics labs applying for ISO compliance. 

She is generous with her time in supervising and mentoring others. As a PhD supervisor, she has co-supervised one student to completion (on the topic of cloud computing), and is currently supervising two other students. In addition to that, she mentors a female apprentice, and is teaching her to handle day-to-day lab operations, as well as developing her skills in digital forensics and research. Her students really appreciate her too – she has been nominated for Best Lecturer, Most Interactive Lecturer, and Best Teaching Support Staff in the Cranfield University Student Led Teaching Awards 2014, 2015, and 2016. 

All too often engineering is thought of as bricks, roads, bridges and pipes. But at a time when our online safety and security has never been more important, and when we are all more vulnerable to digital crime, Sarah’s practical research to prove both innocence and guilt, alongside her work to educate key groups such as laboratory management, law enforcement, early career researchers and MSc students, and adolescents, certainly deserves recognition.