Aimi Elias is a civil engineer with a passion for communication. She is currently working for London Underground on a new train network called Crossrail and recently inspired audiences with her engaging performances at FameLab. Aimi took some time out of her busy schedule to chat to us about Crossrail, FameLab and her advice for future engineers.
Aimi on stage at FameLab
Aimi was inspired to study civil engineering when she realised how much of a difference she could make. “What really drew me to the subject was the big impact projects had on society. My form tutor was from a background where infrastructure was important in times of unrest and told me that engineers were so important to build things again after disaster.”
After seeing other students running projects alongside their degrees, Aimi decided to get involved in Engineers Without Borders. “I went to Tanzania to build rainwater harvesting systems for a rural community. I am now a trustee of a small spin-off charity called Raincatcher and have helped engineering students after me return to Tanzania to continue that work.”
It was this experience of international development that led Aimi to her decision to work in public transport. “The benefit of transport reaches all walks of life – it’s infrastructure that can be used by all and helps regenerate an area economically.”
Engineering the future of transport
In her current role at London Underground, Aimi works as a Project Engineer at Crossrail Liverpool Street station. Crossrail is a new underground train network across London, set to open in 2018. When complete, it will span from Reading in the west to Shenfield in the east.
Aimi is playing an important role in the construction of Crossrail. She represents London Underground and works with the contractors at Crossrail to ensure that the station is well-designed and easy for staff to maintain. “One of the biggest challenges on the project at the moment is making sure that when it opens, staff and passengers find it easy to use. You could say building all the civil engineering is the easy bit!”
Crossrail is set to revolutionise transport across London. “It is a very exciting project on the doorstep of London’s financial district, so you know what you are working on will have an impact on thousands of passengers each day. Looking at the bigger picture, it’s also great knowing that in 2018 it will help relieve congestion on the network, which I’m sure anyone who has used the tube will pleased to hear.”
Aimi on site at Crossrail
Recently, Aimi took part in FameLab, a science communication competition. Speakers aim to engage the audience and judges for three minutes with a short talk about science, technology, engineering, maths or medicine.
Aimi gave some fantastic performances, one of which included demonstrating the structure of an underground tunnel through yoga! Aimi was the only engineer to reach the final round, but says she has always found public speaking a challenge. “I found out that it is a skill that can be learned by even the softest spoken of people. This led me to get out of my comfort zone and give it a go by learning about storytelling. It’s been a huge learning journey for me getting to the final, and I’ve met some amazing, passionate scientists along the way.”
Aimi’s experience on FameLab has sparked her interest in spreading the word about her subject to others. “I’d love to continue being involved in engineering communication in the future, but haven’t got anything lined up at the moment. I would love the opportunity to do more presenting, so watch this space.”
Aimi demonstrating a tunnel structure during her performance at FameLab
For those thinking about a career in engineering, Aimi believes it is important to get involved and try it out. “Get some work experience and find out if it’s for you. Whether this is a week shadowing an engineer, a summer school, or applying for an apprenticeship, the best way to see if it’s what you’d like to do is to get stuck in! There’s more than one way to get into engineering, not just the academic route if you’re worried about grades. So explore all your options and speak to as many people about it as you can. Tomorrow’s Engineers is a great place to start.”
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