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Michelle undertook two placements with Rolls-Royce.

Q&A: Michelle Watiki

Quick-fire facts




BEng chemical engineering (Hons), Aston University. MSc advanced chemical engineering, Cranfield University.

Biggest engineering inspiration: 

Katherine Johnson.

Most-used technology: 


Three words that describe you:

fun, logical, inquisitive.

Why did you first become interested in science/engineering?

I’ve always loved sciences. Chemistry was my favourite as I used to watch a lot of science-based TV shows such as Brainiac and MythBusters. I didn’t know what an engineer was until the end of my GCSEs when my economics teacher recommended that I investigate it as a future career. The fact that it included science and maths had me sold almost instantly.

How did you get to where you are now?

I studied AS maths, further maths, chemistry, and physics but dropped physics at A level as we were limited to three subjects. During this period, I participated in about four different summer schools while touring a variety of universities, which was particularly insightful.

I completed my first internship as a Nuffield Research Placement student at Xerox in Year 12, then was awarded a scholarship with EY (Ernst & Young) in Year 13, which included a summer internship within its advisory office.

I went on to study chemical engineering at Aston University and spent my placement year at Rolls-Royce Civil Aerospace as a manufacturing intern. I received an offer to return for a three-month summer internship within Nuclear Defence, which was great as it was within the chemical engineering field, as a thermo-fluid system design intern. Unfortunately, my offer to return the following summer was withdrawn because of the pandemic.

During the summer internship, I realised my passion for engineering education and outreach so spent a month interning abroad at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Engineering, Kenya, where I helped support women engineering students.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Graduating from university with a first-class degree and receiving a full scholarship for my master’s degree. I worked a lot during university to financially support myself, even during my placement year (working six days a week was not fun!), so being able to see it all pay off was extremely rewarding.

I also currently sit as a Trustee Board Member for the Engineering Development Trust and I’m an Executive Board Member for the Association for Black and Ethnic Minority Engineers.

What is your favourite thing about being an engineer?

The flexibility and creativeness when solving problems plus the fact that I can use maths to do so! Maths was always my favourite subject growing up and I love solving a good equation.

Spend your time in education really exploring your interests. Engineering is such a broad field but the skills you learn are extremely transferable.

What does a typical day involve for you?

I’m currently completing my thesis, which looks at the feasibility and techno-economics of exploiting geothermal power in contribution to ‘global net zero’ within developing countries situated across East Africa. I spend most of my day working on my report and liaising with my partner company. This includes computational simulations, a lot of Excel and reading through tons of research papers.

Outside of academia, I work with a variety of different organisations (in different capacities), while also providing mentoring services so I block out time to complete any outstanding tasks/respond to emails. These organisations are all centred around engineering and/or education so this is my favourite part of the day.

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

Spend your time in education really exploring your interests. Engineering is such a broad field but the skills you learn are extremely transferable. During my placement year, I organised my own rotations and moved from mechanical to operations and even software design (I had never coded a day in my life prior to that moment). I did all of this although my undergraduate degree was in chemical engineering.

What’s next for you?

I’m due to start a graduate scheme and get hands-on with my career. I’ve taken a keen interest in sustainability, especially net zero.

I’m also in the middle of creating a one-stop platform to support engineering students during their time at university. I was often confused or lost during my undergraduate degree and only really gained confidence in engineering as my future field of work during the final years.

I would like to create a hub that has all the quirky information that engineering students want to know but nobody really addresses.


This article has been adapted from "How I got here- Michelle Watiki", which originally appeared in the print edition of Ingenia 88 (September 2021).

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