Women in Engineering Day

Women in Engineering Day 2018

The NOC People Strategy has at its centre a vision of NOC as ‘a great place to work where people succeed and deliver great work’. NOC is using the Investors in People framework to review progress towards this vision and make improvements; and gained accreditation in September 2015, with very positive feedback from the Assessor.

Working towards this has resulted in actions that have already improved management practices (acknowledged by staff) which will also feed into attaining better gender equality, through applying more consistent management practices across the organisation. Achieving the Athena SWAN standards for gender equality is also part of our strategy.

I am committed to the principles of the Athena SWAN and delivering the action plan which represents a moral and practical commitment to fairness and equality.

Ed Hill, NOC Executive Director

Dr Allison Schaap

Allison is a Research Engineer working on microfluidic sensors.

I am part of a team that develops sensors to measure ocean chemistry. I do a mix of interdisciplinary engineering and scientific work. On the theoretical side, this includes working with fluid mechanics, CAD software, modelling, writing scripts, performing data analysis, and report writing. In the lab, I build, test, fix, and characterise instruments and run experiments on new designs or methods. I’ve also done some field work using the sensors out in exciting places.


PhD in Mechanical Engineering (from the Eindhoven University of Technology, the Netherlands); Masters in Mech. Eng. and Bachelors in Engineering Physics (both from the University of British Columbia, Canada)

Career Pathway

This is my first “real” job after finishing my PhD. However, throughout my undergraduate degree I worked part-time in a lab which specialised in analytical chemistry and instrumentation for environmental applications, which is what got me interested in doing research and in this field in general.

Number of days at sea

I haven’t been to sea properly (other than small day trips) but I’ve done some field work since starting at the NOC two years ago: I’ve spent a total of over a month in three different countries deploying the sensors and training other users on them. This has ranged from well-equipped labs to lower-resource environments.

Favourite thing about my work

I really enjoy the interdisciplinary and mixed nature of my work and the group I’m in. It’s great to be able to see technology go from idea, to testing, to reality, to deployment, and that complete path isn’t something you always have in other research environments. It’s also fantastic to be able to work together closely with such a broad range of experts: you can learn some chemistry from the chemists, some electrical engineering from the electrical engineers, some oceanography from the oceanographers, and pull it all together for your own work.

Best technology you’ve developed

Of course the best technology I’ve used is the sensors we develop ourselves! Really though, it’s great to be able to see microfluidic and lab-on-a-chip technology, which is often used in labs but not often brought to commercial fruition, come into its own in environmental fieldwork. In this application it matters dramatically if you can cut down the consumption of power or reagents/chemicals on your sensor by miniaturising it. It means you get more data for a longer time, and on top of that it’s a lot easier to carry around when you’re using it!

Dr Annika Simpson

Annika is the Manager of our Molecular and Microbiology Facility.

I manage the NOC’s molecular and microbiology labs. Though a microbiologist by training, I am here to make sure the scientists and engineers in the group have everything they need for their work on biosensors. This means I do a range of things, from keeping the lab tidy, to managing stock levels of consumables, to helping run bioassays, and (my favourite part) helping to culture the bacteria and algae we use.


Though I did the three sciences at A-levels, and very nearly took the route of mechanical engineering, I went on to do my BSc in Microbiology at the University of East Anglia. I then did my PhD in environmental microbiology at the Planetary and Space Sciences Research Institute at The Open University.

Career Pathway

After my PhD, I became a research assistant and lab manager in the Bioaerosol Research Facility at the Mathematics, Computing and Technology department at The Open University campus. This job involved quite a bit of work at landfill sites, testing and researching the microbe levels in the air. So, the NOC has been a bit of a departure!

Favourite thing about working on a lab

As my role is as support role for Ocean Technology and Engineering, my job is to be there for the scientists and engineers using my lab. Making sure that they have everything they need and are happy, gives me job satisfaction. That, and a tidy and clean lab at the end of the day.

Best technology you’ve used

Though this may sound a bit boring compared to the technology some of my colleagues use/have developed, my favourite technology that I have used is still the SEM (scanning electron microscope). As a microbiologist, looking at microbes under the microscope, and to the level of detail an SEM can reach, is an incredible experience and nothing has yet topped that. It gives us an insight into a whole new world.

Support for equality and diversity

I have been lucky to have strong role models in my science career, from teachers during A-levels, lecturers during my undergraduate and now colleagues during my work life. I was only one of two girls in my Physics A-level class of about 25, but, even then, I was not made to feel any different. I very nearly became a mechanical engineer had it not been for my strong passion for microbiology. Both men and women have inspired me and made me feel that nothing is out of reach, as it should always be.

Dr Catherine Harris

Catherine is a Research Fellow working in Marine Autonomous Systems Development.

I research and implement innovative software and control strategies for our state-of-the-art robotic submarines, or Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs). Science and industry are keen to push the boundaries of what is currently achievable with our robotic vehicles, collecting higher-resolution data over long periods of time in some of the most extreme environments on the planet, including under-ice in the Arctic and Antarctic. To help achieve this, I work on a wide-range of engineering and research projects, developing new robots and ways of operating our existing fleet, such as designing co-operative strategies to allow multiple robots to work together.


I hold a PhD in Robotics and a BSc Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science. My A-levels are Physics, Maths, and Computing with an AS-level in Electronics.

Career Pathway

During university, I completed two placements at the NOC and designed the software system for a student AUV.

Number of days at sea

23 (plus multiple on-shore deployments of Autosub Long Range and ecoSUBs).

Favourite thing about working in the field

The ocean environment is very tough for robots. We have to ensure they can contend with waves, currents and pressure, as well as huge uncertainty about what the seafloor is like and what they might encounter. Once an AUV dives below the surface, it is entirely on its own as we have little to no contact with it during the mission, so as engineers we have a nervous wait! However, it’s incredibly rewarding to see the robots we have developed successfully returning to the ship after performing missions and collecting data thousands of metres below the surface.

Best technology you’ve developed

Unlike the majority of our robots, the new ecoSUB AUVs (developed at the NOC in collaboration with Planet Ocean) are miniature and easily portable, opening up a world of new opportunities for large-scale multi-vehicle deployments, as well as testing innovative artificial intelligence software systems, which can then be scaled up to our bigger fleet.

Support for equality and diversity

There are many fantastic women making brilliant contributions to STEMM subjects. If you’re considering a STEMM career, believe in yourself and don’t let anyone put you off. It isn’t always easy to be in the minority, but there are loads of people and companies out there who will support and encourage you. Equality and diversity benefit everyone!

Corinne Pebody

Corinne is Particle Flux Technician working with Ocean BioGeoSciences.

I run sediment trap programs, at sea and in the lab. I support optical and wet chemistry instruments (providing essential ocean variables) at the Porcupine Abyssal Plain Sustained Observatory (PAP-SO), coordinate conductivity, temperature and depth sampling at sea, zooplankton sampling at the PAP-SO and supporting the PELAGRA traps. I manage the Particle Flux Laboratory and work in it to produce data. I use this data to contribute to posters, talks and papers.


BSc Marine and Freshwater Biology and MSc Oceanography

Career Pathway

I came back to science after working elsewhere for several years and found the MSc a great way of reacquainting myself with oceanography. I gave up a well-paid job to become a student again with no guarantee of employment. I feel very lucky that it has worked so well for me.

Number of days at sea

20ish per year

Favourite thing about working on a research ship/lab

My favourite thing is working on something really special, really interesting, finding patterns and teasing apart linkages between zooplankton and particle flux. I love being able to combine practical skills with technology and thinking skills to produce and analyse data. Each day presents new questions and it never gets repetitive. I also get to work with an amazing group of people who are just as keen and interested as me and that is really motivating too. Sitting back at the end of the day and seeing data come to life in a beautiful graph is just completely satisfying.

Best technology you’ve developed/used

The camera system we brought into the lab has been a useful way of representing our data, pictures really do tell a story and have been a great way of showing and telling about what we do. I still enjoy looking down the microscope picking samples, I get to see incredible animals and evidence of the biological carbon pump in action.

Support for equality and diversity

I have worked part time since having children. The flexibility given to me has been really helpful. I really enjoy going to sea now the children are older, because once there, I can totally immerse myself in my work and this is hugely motivating. I have found the attitudes to women at sea really positive in recent years and I urge anyone who has to opportunity, to just go for it.

Hannah Wright

Hannah is an Electronics Engineer in Ocean Technology and Engineering.

I design and test electronics for ocean sensors and sensor systems. This involves circuit design, testing of prototypes and using CAD to convert the designs into circuit boards. It also needs to be made sure that all parts of the system can communicate and are powered correctly. I will work with other engineers and scientists to make sure the electronics are what they need!


At Higher: Maths, English, Physics, Chemistry, Music, Product Design. Advanced Higher: Maths, Physics. MEng Electrical and Mechanical Engineering.

Career Pathway

My first job after University – lucky me!

Number of days at sea

0 … yet!

Best technology you’ve developed

I am currently working on the technology for the RAPID array moorings to improve access to the data produced far out in the ocean. I think the end result would have a big impact on the project as data can be acquired much more frequently and with a lot less effort!

Support for equality and diversity

I think it is really important to promote STEMM careers and would love to see an equal representation of woman in STEMM, the number of woman in electronics is especially low!

Dr ir. Veerle Huvenne (the ‘ir.’ title refers to my engineering qualification in Belgium)

Veerle is a Principal Investigator, marine geologist, seafloor and habitat mapping specialist.

My main task is to design, carry out and coordinate scientific research, and to communicate this to colleague scientists and to the wider world. Our research is aimed at creating a better understanding of different seafloor habitats, where they occur, which species they are occupied by and which patterns they show. My work is mainly focused on complex environments in the deep sea (e.g., submarine canyons, deep-sea coral reefs, seamounts, mid-ocean ridges), and to study those well, I make use of the latest technology in deep-sea robotics and acoustic surveying. Once the data are collected, data processing and analysis require programming and writing scripts to apply numerical & statistical techniques, and to develop Geographical Information Systems (GIS), predictive habitat models and 3D spatial representations of the terrains we have explored.


Bio-Engineer in soil- and water-management (5yrs - equivalent to MSc), MSc in Oceanography, PhD in Marine Geology

Career Pathway

Post-doctoral positions at the NOC as part of a European project and as Marie Curie Fellow.

Number of days at sea


Favourite thing about working on a research ship

Working on a research vessel is exploration. You have the chance to observe the marine environment first-hand, you will see places on the planet nobody has ever seen before. The work can be hard, especially at 3am when you're out on deck in 6oC in a driving rain, but it creates a team-spirit that you can’t find in the office.

Best technology you’ve used

The NOC deep-submergence vehicles which form part of the Marine Autonomous and Robotic Systems fleet. The complexity of tasks that can be achieved with the ROV Isis is unrivalled, while the AUV Autosub6000 has enabled us to give our deep-water mapping work a whole new dimension. Behind each vehicle stands a splendid team of engineers, who have been able to turn my vision of mapping vertical and overhanging cliffs in the deep sea into reality.

Dr Julie Robidart

Julie is a Senior Scientist working with biosensors and molecular ecology.

I develop and apply sensors and samplers to capture and analyse microbes active in marine biogeochemical cycling. I primarily develop and translate design requirements for novel technological developments to full-time engineers, but I have also developed microfluidics and mechanical components for instrumentation. Finally, a lot of my work involves interrogating DNA / RNA sequence databases to develop novel analytical assays to quantify genes, transcripts and proteins from marine organisms. This is important because it expands the capabilities of molecular biosensors (i.e., number of organisms/cycles we can analyse).


I have a Bachelors of Science (BS) in Aquatic Biology from University of California, Santa Barbara, and a minor in Spanish. My PhD is in Marine Biology.

Career Pathway

PhD from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Postdoc at Harvard University and a joint position between the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and the University of California Santa Cruz.

Number of days at sea

Last time I counted, about a year.

Favourite thing about your work

Developing and working with new technologies allows me to address questions that were impossible to address previously, enabling discovery. I also love the creativity involved in design and the feeling of satisfaction when I (a lowly biologist) can fix broken instruments myself. On the science side, I enjoy planning collaborative research before cruises, and then writing the papers together afterwards. The camaraderie that comes from going to sea is really great and expands scientific networks.

Best technology you’ve used

I’m lucky enough to have worked with the Deep Submergence Vehicle ‘Alvin’, a unique vehicle for ocean exploration. The ability to see hydrothermal chimneys, giant clams and human-sized tubeworms firsthand, as well as the abundance and diversity of tiny planktonic animals swimming by your porthole would inspire anybody.

Support for equality and diversity

Compounding the negative impacts of implicit bias, inequalities in resources contribute to a science and engineering workforce that does not reflect the broader population. In order to promote diversity in STEMM, I have led tours for robotics clubs and led science activities for socioeconomically disadvantaged high schools. A Science of Diversity journal club that I organised enabled scientists and engineers to learn about the reasons for inequalities in their fields in order to develop and enact appropriate solutions.