Engineers like Kimberley are keeping us safe on the roads by testing crash barriers so drivers that lose control will come to a safe and effective stop.
She’s also been making sure airbags can tell the difference between a bumpy road and a crash, so they won’t fire accidentally.
Kimberley is a graduate at vehicle engineering, test and development company MIRA and she uses her determination, attention to detail and problem solving skills to save drivers’ lives.
So don’t be a (crash test) dummy! For an interesting, varied, creative job that makes a difference to people’s lives, choose engineering…
Name: Kimberley Buckley
Job title: Graduate Engineer
Hometown: Polperro, Cornwall
A-level studies: maths, physics and history
Qualifications: MEng (Hons) Automotive Engineering with Motorsport, Hertfordshire University
Tell us about your job…
I am on a graduate scheme which allows me to move around the company into different departments, giving me the opportunity to experience different areas of engineering. At the moment I am in the High Energy Facility where we mainly conduct crash testing at high speed or propel large vehicles into security products and crash barriers.
Other projects I have worked on include airbag misuse testing to make sure car airbags do not fire when you drive over kerbs, rough surfaces or into potholes.
How does your work affect people’s lives/the world around us?
Part of the work I do involves testing crash barriers such as those used on motorways. These tests make sure that any barrier used on the roads is capable of stopping a lorry but is not so inflexible that, if a small car was to hit it, the occupants would be seriously injured or killed.
What do you like most about engineering or your job?
My favorite aspect of engineering is problem solving. I love being given a task and coming up with lots of different ideas on how to complete it. This allows me to think outside the box and use all the knowledge I have gained from university and work.
What inspired you to be an engineer?
I always wanted to do something unusual and different to my friends and in Year 7 I started watching F1. This gave me the idea to be an engineer so I could travel round the world to the races. This was supported by my dad’s desire for me to have a “trade” and not just work in an office sat at a desk. He was a builder and wanted me to be a civil engineer and always discussed what he had done at work over dinner.
I choose to study automotive engineering, specifically with motorsport, because of my desire to work in F1, but at university I realised it’s not as glamorous as it appears. I therefore changed my area of interest towards test engineering within the wider automotive sector which presents me with a diverse range of projects to work on.
There are a number of different routes you can take into a career in engineering. What route did you take and why?
At secondary school I decided I wanted to be an engineer but at the time I did not know all the routes into engineering, so I thought I had to get a degree in engineering. After leaving secondary school I went onto college to study A-levels, including maths and physics. I decided to take this route after reading university prospectuses which all stated the grades that you needed in maths and physics as it seemed the obvious way to go.
Once I was at university I realised there were different ways to get a career in engineering but looking back I would still have chosen the route I did. Going to university gave me a good knowledge of the theories behind the work I do and provided me with many transferable skills such as time management and how to work in groups.
How important was studying maths and science in school for what you do now? Did you enjoy it at school?
Maths and science are vital for the work I do and I use them every day to solve problems and back up ideas. At university I found the student who had not done maths or physics at A-level did struggle in some of the modules.
I preferred science to maths at school since I could see how it could be applied to real world situations. It was often difficult to see how some of the maths I did during secondary school could be applied. Once I went to university I often found that what I had thought was irrelevant had a practical application.
What personal qualities do you think are important for being an engineer?
Determination: Engineering is a hard subject to study and can often pose complex problems to solve. Therefore a good engineer needs to be determined to achieve their or the project’s aims even when it may seem impossible.
Problem solving: A good engineer needs to be able to think “outside the box” to come up with solutions to engineering challenges.
Attention to detail: Engineers need to have a close attention to detail since what might be a small mistake, if not spotted, can turn into a much larger problem down the line.
There are fewer women working in engineering than men. What would you say to girls who might be interested in a career in engineering?
If you want to become an engineer there is no reason why you should not. As long as you can do the job required it doesn’t matter what gender you are. In my experience I have often found that being a female engineer is an advantage as my male colleges seem to be more willing to share their knowledge and help me.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to do various things in my spare time. I really enjoy baking, much to the delight of my colleagues who get to eat all the cakes. I also enjoy dog training, although I unfortunately don’t have a dog at the moment, but I still go to shows and take photographs.
If you could go back in time and be the inventor of any product, what would you choose?
Part of me would like to say the wheel and patent it so I could live off the royalties. Unfortunately I very much doubt patenting existed at the time the wheel was invented so the product I would have like to have invented would probably be the computer. This is based on how much they have changed our lives, making possible many things that were not previously possible.