She's an Engineer - Fengyu Zhang

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Route into engineering

Luckily I always knew what I wanted to do since I was a kid. I am from a small village in China and know the importance of transportation efficiency from a village to a city, with the least energy and cost.

Therefore, I did thermal engineering in one of the top 10 universities in China for Bachelor degree with an energy saving background. Following that, I went directly for a PhD in Electrical Engineering at the University of Nottingham, where I obtained my PhD in 2019. With a multi-domain engineering background, I delivered unconventional methods to improve the motors in transportation area for energy saving and carbon reduction. 

Job description

My job is to increase the electrical machine efficiency and power density in the area of transportation such as automotive and rails. The motor performance will be deteriorated or even fail at high temperature, which will cost more energy for the same transport distance. Through novel concept, I am reducing the heat that is generated within the motor to improve the heat transfer path and help the heat dissipation. This allows for longer machine life and better performance.

A workday routine is various for me in different stages. However, the first thing I always do is to set goals and prepare a to-do list for the day.

Currently I am managing projects, conducting research and supervising students. The first thing I do in the lab is update the project progress status with group members and technicians in the workshop. Then, I go to my lab bench to turn on the equipment to start the experimental testing, which requires time for the system to reach to steady state. In the meantime, I analyze the experimental data obtained or start a new simulation on a different topic. After the tests are finished, I spend time discussing with colleagues on new ideas or concepts, which is always very refreshing and inspiring.

At the end of the workday, I spend 1 hour reading literature to track the current research developments. After that, I am writing a 300-word summary for the day, including the thoughts of the day and the new things I learnt.

Read books covering different topics and you will be amazed by how much books can offer you, especially during this covid pandemic time. You can explore the colorful world within a day, and talk to wise people from thousands years ago. You will broaden your horizons, find what is most interesting for you and change the world. It is through reading that I found engineering is the area that I want to explore more and through which I can help to make a better world.

Find a hobby, whether it is running, reading or drawing, that you can put yourself in and get you recovered from stress.

The best thing is that this job provides a great opportunity for me to help to achieve the transportation zero-carbon emissions target together with the world. It helps me to meet excellent people around the world to exchange brilliant ideas.

The drawback is that I am the first woman employed in electrical machines within our group for more than a decade and around UK and sometimes feel like the odd one.

There are 17 sustainable development goals, including public’s health, life, and climate change. The direct effect of my work is to reduce transportation carbon emissions and improve people’s life with cost-effective technology on the electrical machines. The work also brings worldwide researchers together and thus promote the partnership between different countries for peace and justice. The novel ideas proposed in the work will increase the society economic growth and create more job opportunities for the public.

Fengyu Zhang 3 pics