Jessica Middlemiss - Chair of the Women in Materials Group

Women in Materials
18 Jan 2016

Jessica Middlemiss, the new chair of the Women in Materials (WIM) group, talks about her career and hopes for the WIM group in 2016.

I started my studies as a Mechanical Engineer at Imperial College London, but failed my first year. Fluid dynamics was not my forte, but I had scored close to 100% in the Materials module. Luckily for me, Dr Shaun Crofton, Imperial’s Senior Tutor for Mechanical Engineering at that time, encouraged me to approach the Materials department. The rest is history. I graduated from Imperial in 2007 with a 2:1 MEng in Materials Science and Engineering.

From Imperial, I joined Rolls-Royce as a graduate trainee. I spent 18 months working in various areas of the business including a stint as a field support engineer for the BA fleet at Heathrow. 

Following the graduate scheme, I worked for two and a half years in Rolls-Royce’s Repair Technology team developing repair techniques for a variety of components including fan blades, turbine blades and blisks.

In 2011, I joined Dyson and have since built up our UK-based materials function. My team supports all materials activities from early concept research to reliability. We work with designers to understand engineering requirements and select appropriate materials. We cover many materials types including thermoplastics, elastomers, metals and paints. It’s a great mixture between technical assessment and hands-on lab work. Even as team leader, I have the opportunity to work in the lab from time to time. 

I love the mix of expertise and people skills that Dyson requires. The results of our research may cause a setback for a team’s project, but by sharing data you can ensure the design is improved and a more appropriate material is used. 

One of my proudest personal contributions to Dyson has been the technical specification of all the materials for the Dyson 360 Eye™ Robot Vacuum Cleaner. Packing so much technology into a small space generated complex materials challenges.

I joined the IOM3 WIM committee in 2013, taking up the chair in 2015. I volunteered as I have always been passionate about engineering as a career and want to show other women and girls that it is a varied, fulfilling and engaging field. The lack of women entering STEM subjects is nationally recognised and I hope WIM gives the women of IOM3 a voice in the wider debate.

Early WIM research indicated that female members want relatable, identifiable role-models, alongside being able to share experiences and network with like-minded women. Our events target this, highlighting the exciting careers of some of our female members and by providing the opportunity to discuss some of the issues faced by women in STEM. Our event in June for National Women in Engineering Day featured two personal accounts of the challenges of juggling family life and gaining recognition in a technical career. It is sad to think that any women might face discrimination in the workplace and I hope that WIM can help provide a support network for IOM3 members who may want advice on how to cope with and tackle negative situations related to their gender.

I want to stress that WIM events are not just for women. Men are actively encouraged to attend and participate in our events to show their support for the careers of women and help us inspire the next generation of women in STEM. We will be planning a London-based event in early 2016 to show-off the new IOM3 London HQ and are looking forward to celebrating National Women in Engineering Day on 23 June 2016.

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