AsianScientist (Jun. 23, 2023) – Despite a persistent gender disparity, female engineers continue to be instrumental in some of the most remarkable innovations and projects the world has seen.
While only 16.5 percent of engineers worldwide are women, institutional efforts aimed at promoting diversity and inclusivity have driven a steady improvement in their representation over time.
On this year’s International Women in Engineering Day, we celebrate five award-winning female engineers from the 2023 Asian Scientist 100. From pioneering work in nanotechnology to building missile systems, these women are defying societal expectations and leaving an indelible mark on the history of this field.
Ashani Savinda Ranathunga: Transforming waste into sustainable infrastructure
An advocate of ‘waste to wealth’, Dr Ashani Savinda Ranathunga is best known for turning Sri Lanka’s industrial and agricultural waste into raw materials for economical and greener construction and development projects.
The use of fly ash and calcium carbide residues from industrial waste, along with agricultural byproducts like paddy husk and corn cob ash, for stabilizing soft soil has made it possible to create durable infrastructure. Using the same waste products, Ranathunga is also rehabilitating depleted soil in abandoned mines.
Her contributions were recognized with the Bright Spark Lecture Award for the Most Promising Young Geotechnical Engineer in 2020 and the 2022 OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Award for Early-Career Women Scientists in the Developing World.
As a lecturer at the University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka, Ranathunga empowers young women in developing countries to pursue their calling in science and engineering.
Athanasia Amanda Septevani: Building from plantation waste
Driven by a similar vision, Dr Athanasia Amanda Septevani dedicates her expertise in material science engineering to harness the potential of biomass waste generated from oil-palm plantations in Indonesia.
Currently a senior researcher at the Research Centre for Chemistry in the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) in Indonesia, Septevani’s team focuses on the innovative chemical processing of biomass waste to develop high-value bio-based polymers like nanocellulose. Nanocellulose can serve as a promising material building block, finding applications across diverse fields like packaging, electronics, energy and health.
Septevani’s translational efforts to collaborate with universities, government agencies and industry have garnered her accolades, including the 2022 Japan International Young Agricultural Research Award from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) and the Merck Award for Young Indonesian Scientists.
Gurumoorthy Bhuvaneswari: Powering education
Dr Gurumoorthy Bhuvaneswari is widely acclaimed for her work on advancing power converters to improve power quality and for utilizing advanced technologies to support her passion for education.
A distinguished professor of electrical and electronics engineering at Mahindra University, India, Bhuvaneswari brings decades of invaluable teaching experience to her role. She also engages with practicing engineers from various industries through her enlightening lectures to raise awareness about power quality issues.
Bhuvaneswari’s contributions have earned global recognition and led her to be elected as an esteemed international member of the US National Academy of Engineering.
Tessy Thomas: India’s Missile Woman
Known for an illustrious 35-year career at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in India, Dr Tessy Thomas is an inspiration to girls everywhere to enter male-dominated STEM fields.
As the Director General of Aeronautical Systems at DRDO, Thomas shoulders the responsibility for all aeronautical systems, including manned and unmanned aerial vehicles, aero engines, early warning airborne systems and subsonic cruise missiles.
With a belief that missiles can be instruments of peace, Thomas emphasizes the notion that ‘strength respects strength’. In recognition of her pioneering work developing indigenous missile systems, she was honoured with the prestigious APJ Abdul Kalam award.
Hsiao-Wen Zan: Transforming healthcare diagnostics
Currently a professor at the Department of Photonics in National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University, Taiwan, Dr Hsiao-Wen Zan holds over 25 years of experience in organic and oxide semiconductor research.
Zan was co-awarded the 2022 Franco-Taiwanese prize for her work with French researcher, Dr Olivier Soppera, advancing laser materials and processes for the development of metal-oxide-based sensors as healthcare diagnostics. The sensor detects exhaled ammonia, a useful biomarker that Zan discovered for assessing kidney function in patients.
Zan holds more than 80 patents for her innovative inventions of novel structural semiconductor devices and also takes on the role of chairing the women’s engineering group at the Taiwan branch of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
Illustration: Yipei Lieu/Asian Scientist Magazine
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