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A woman with curly hear, wearing a crown and holding a trophy topped with a large sphere, that is positioned in front of the sun so there is the halo of light around it.
© Cara Fox

Q&A: Cara Fox

As team principal of Queen Mary University of London’s Formula Student team, Cara Fox has laid the foundations for an exciting career in motorsport.
A girl with red hair wearing a bandana, holding a takeaway coffee and sitting at a desk in front of a laptop and desktop computer with an engineering design on the screen.

“Some much needed caffeine to work on our 2024 Livery.” – Cara © Cara Fox

Why did you become interested in science and engineering?

My mum and dad are a huge reason for my interest in science. They noticed I would come home from school and talk about the science experiments I had done, so they started getting me activities like a chemistry set and a model engine to encourage that interest. I used to attend the Royal Society Summer Exhibition every summer, which I would really recommend to parents who aren’t super into science. My dad would just follow me around the stalls all day and hold the goodies I collected, which to his credit he never complained about. But the core of my passion for engineering comes from my problem-solving mentality. I can do maths and physics but I’m not particularly academic, engineering is really about the challenge of creating solutions for me. I enjoy using knowledge I’ve gained to innovate and build for the future.

How did you get to where you are now?

I’m currently in my master’s year in mechanical engineering at Queen Mary University of London. I’ve completed A levels in maths, physics, further maths and philosophy; a year’s internship at Element Six; a summer internship with Ansys; and three years of my degree. I have just finished my last exam for this year and will be graduating in July 2024. My journey has focused on gaining my degree to work in the engineering field of my choice, motorsport. While studying, I have completed as much extracurricular work as possible, including running my university’s Formula Student (QMFS) team for the last two years. These achievements have culminated in a dream role starting in September at Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains. As the daughter of two civil servants, Formula One was so unattainable I still can’t quite wrap my head around that sentence. I’m extremely grateful to both for helping me believe in myself.

A young woman and two older people smiling for a photograph, the woman is wearing a first place sash and the lady to her left is holding a metal and glass trophy.

Cara (centre) after winning the An Chomhdháil Senior Ladies World Champion in 2023 © Cara Fox

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Despite all I mentioned about my engineering journey, my biggest achievement is almost completely unrelated. Since I was five, I’ve been involved in competitive Irish Dancing, a sport that has significant history in my family. My gran and grandad, from Belfast and Dublin respectively, are founding members of my dance organisation. My aunt and mother are both dancing teachers, my mother is my own dancing teacher. My dad even attended a few lessons as a child. I was brought up in the dance world and developed a particularly competitive nature. In 2017, I won the An Chomhdháil World Championship title, which I have also won four times since, most recently as the Senior Ladies World Champion in 2023. Although Irish Dance and engineering couldn’t be more different by definition, my experience as a competitive dancer made me passionate, confident, and altogether determined when I set my mind to a goal. It has taught me that there is no such thing as an impossible goal, just one you may have to sacrifice for.

Cara presenting a research poster at the Octagon, Queen Mary University of London © Cara Fox

What is your favourite thing about being an engineer?

The community. I think when most people imagine engineering, they imagine someone sat in front of a computer for hours on end with an energy drink. And while this was the case for a few too many of my university submissions, the experience of working in engineering is much different. You experience it on a small scale at Formula Student, where you and your fellow students are working towards this huge and often daunting goal. But the payoff is enormous, the feelings of submitting a good document, finally sorting a design issue, or when we all get new uniform, those are some incredible moments of human connection. The power of engineering is strongest with a cohesive team and a lot of my work at QMFS has been building unity to foster this special sort of success.

What does a typical day involve for you?

I will admit, I’m not a super early riser, so usually my day will start between 8 and 9am, checking messages. Once I get to the workshop, I catch up with anyone already there and see what they’re planning to do for the day. We will have decided on the week’s activity at our Monday meeting but it’s nice to keep an eye on progress so we can catch any issues early in the week. I like to use the start of my day to complete urgent admin tasks, which might include organising finances or events, double-checking documentation and I even like to get involved in creating social media content. I’ll check emails in this time and do a mental check that I’ve not got any outstanding tasks for the team’s stakeholders including the school, the students’ union, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers [who run Formula Student], our sponsors, and of course our lovely team members. It’s never a dull day at QMFS and I rarely get through the day having completed my to-do list, in fact it usually gets longer. As the day goes on, I like to get more and more involved in the engineering of our vehicles. As a final year student, I try to transfer as much of my gained knowledge and experience to newer team members by working with them on their problems. I like to finish up my day by doing something practical and recently I’ve been working on creating the seat for the 2024 vehicle. In the evenings I tutor in maths and physics as a part-time job, attend dance classes and do a little bit more admin.

Quick-fire facts

Cara's social justice inspiration 💡




Undergraduate in mechanical engineering

Biggest engineering inspiration:

Someone who really inspires me in engineering, especially for sustainability and social justice is Alexis Williams, you can find her on most socials as @alexisdenisew

Most-used technology:

My headphones, I can’t go five minutes without listening to something!

Three words that describe you:

Passionate, confident, determined

What would be your advice to young people looking to pursue a career in engineering?

Find the thing you’re passionate about. Engineering is so broad, which can be daunting when you’re just getting started but it gets easier as you rule out things you don’t want to do. I would also recommend that if you’re at university, joining an engineering society should be top of your list! When I started at university, I was adamant I wouldn’t be joining an engineering society, I reasoned that I’d already be hanging out with engineers all day. But honestly? I wished I had joined much earlier.

What’s next for you?

From September I’ll be working at Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains. I’m on a one-year contract rotating around their Formula One powertrains and battery technology departments. I’m looking forward to moving out of London and slowing down a bit, although I don’t doubt I’ll find some other hobby to keep me occupied soon enough. I’m also hoping to progress towards chartership and sharpen my engineering skills in this high demand, high reward environment.

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