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Making communication easier

Samantha works with technology to make communication easier for those who might find it difficult.

Samantha Micklewright Og

Name: Samantha Micklewright
Age: 29
Job title: Clinical Scientist
Qualifications: MEng in Mechanical Engineering (University of Bath), PhD (Doctor of Philosophy – Biomedical Engineering), MSc (King’s College London). Completed the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP) to become HCPC Registered as a Clinical Scientist
Employer: Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust
Where you live: West Sussex

Tell us about your job. What do you do?
I work as a Clinical Scientist in the Chailey Communication Aid Service alongside Speech and Language Therapists and Occupational Therapists. We provide high tech aids to children and adults across Sussex and Surrey to aid spoken communication. This may include a tablet device with specialist communication software, a method of accessing this (such as a switch or eye gaze) and a mounting solution (such as attaching it to a wheelchair).

What does an average day look like for you?
It varies between time spent visiting people in their homes for assessment and provision of equipment, to time in the office designing a solution and completing the paperwork. The role of a clinical scientist is quite diverse, which means some days I’m also able to get involved in training, service development and research projects too.

How does your work affect people’s lives/the world around us?
If someone finds it difficult or is unable to communicate through speech, our service will hopefully enable them to use technology as voice output communication.

How did you first become interested in engineering/what inspired you to be an engineer?
I always enjoyed doing practical things and problem solving as a child. In secondary school I loved getting into the workshop to do resistant materials and broader Design Technology subjects. I also began to realise how I preferred thinking things through logically.

Through my GCSE’s, my favourite subjects were Maths, Physics and Biology, so Biomedical Engineering seemed like a good option. It really helped that my Physics and Math’s teachers were so enthusiastic and inspiring themselves.

There are a number of different routes you can take into a career in engineering. What route did you take (and why)?
I did A-levels at a sixth form college and then went on to do Mechanical Engineering at University. For me, this worked really well as I learnt so much about Engineering but also important life skills whilst at university. I had a great time and met some brilliant people at the same time. My degree was good at encouraging the practical elements of engineering and the course also allowed me to do a sandwich placement, which I really recommend to anyone considering engineering at university. Looking back, I think this was the year that I really became an Engineer!

How important was studying maths and science in school for what you do now?
Important – although the job that I do doesn’t require me to perform calculations as much as some engineers, I wouldn’t have been able to follow the path I have without them.

There are fewer women working in engineering than men - What would you say to girls who might be interested in a career in engineering?
Go for it! If it is something that you think you might enjoy, then get some work experience or speak to people about the many different types of engineering to find your niche - I don’t see why your gender makes any difference to that to be honest.

What do you like most about engineering?
The possibilities/ potential that it brings.  Applying engineering principles to the design and/or implementation of something that really can change lives is huge.  

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I do my best to make the most of my time with wonderful family and friends. Travelling with my husband as much as possible – we love a road trip.  Much of my spare time seems to have been taken up with doing DIY in our house – luckily we have lots of people willing to help us with this!

What personal qualities are important for being an engineer?
Determination, taking a logical approach to problem solving, ability to think about a situation as a whole and think outside the box when required.

If you could go back in time and invent anything, what would it be?
I’m a big fan of keeping it simple wherever possible and of user-friendly design. A random example of this is an avocado preparation tool that a friend recently introduced me to – it doesn’t change the world, but it does make me smile!

What advice would you give a young person who was considering engineering as a future career?
Speak to other engineers and get some work experience wherever possible. Be aware of the many types of engineering - it is easy to be put off by a particular part that doesn’t interest you, but there are so many different areas to specialise in which may suit you more.

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