Fact File

  • Name: Sophie
  • Age: 21
  • Job: Aerospace engineering student
  • Where from: Sheffield
  • Favourite place: Home
  • Favourite food: Nandos
  • Favourite animal: piglets
  • Favourite TV series: Friends
  • Favourite singer: Elvis Presley
  • Selfie or polaroid: Polaroid (got an Instax camera)
  • Favourite saying: Sometimes you gotta run before you can walk
  • Pet Peeve: Getting in an unmade bed
  • Inspirational woman: Anne Boleyn

When Sophie was 16 she felt stuck. She struggled with maths and didn’t know what she wanted to do. But one of her teachers believed in her, and she found a way to get to university without A levels.

Why did you want to study aerospace engineering?

I was really into space from a young age. Space fascinated me, I loved space and stars. I had a telescope and watched youtube videos about how stars die and all about planets. Even today all the technology in my house is space-themed or named after stars. Originally I looked at astrophysics but then I moved on to aerospace. I was into rockets but now I’m learning about planes, and how they fly and that’s interesting. Most people just don’t know how planes fly.

How did you get where you are?

At secondary school I was stuck, I didn’t have any ideas about what to do. Then I went to the UTC in Sheffield I started doing maths and physics A levels, but I have to admit that it was a struggle so I dropped them and carried on with level 3 diploma. That knocked my confidence. I felt that uni wasn’t for me. But one of my teachers believed in me and said that I could do it. So then I looked up ways of getting into uni without A levels, and here I am.

Sophie using the flight simulatorWho inspired you?

I watched a lot of Brian Cox on the telly and then I saw him at Sheffield Arena. I find him interesting and he makes it accessible to everyone. Even my mum likes him!

What was it like studying engineering as a girl?

It’s never bothered me that I was a girl. Engineering classes are mainly male and I get on well with boys. But there were only two girls in my class and that could maybe make it harder to make friends.
Boys and girls can have different levels of confidence. My advice is to take advantage of the support you can get from other people including teachers.

What do people think about you doing engineering?

None of my friends have ever said I shouldn’t do engineering because I’m a girl. My mum thinks it’s really good.

I’ve got a job at Meadowhall, and when I meet new people they are always really shocked when I tell them I’m studying aerospace engineering. They expect me to be doing something completely different!

What would you like to be doing in 10 years’ time?

When I was younger I wanted to work for NASA or the European Space Agency. Now I want to be working for an engineering company somewhere local in Sheffield.

Sophie doing calculations on a whiteboard

What do you do in your spare time?

I play my video games. I’ve had a PS3 and PS4 for years and I’ve got a new PC that my boyfriend built.

I love shopping – online, Meadowhall, anywhere there’s shops!
I’m really into the Tudors. I’ve visited Hampton Court, I watch documentaries, and I’ve got books on them.
I go to rock gigs, often in Leeds or Sheffield.

Advice to girls thinking about aerospace engineering?

Engineering is real life: don’t think it’s all going to be all books. You need to see what’s involved, go and see a flight simulator, or a wind tunnel – there’s lots of exciting things and practical work.

I’ve not had to get over many hurdles about being a girl – and that shows it doesn’t have to be a problem. There are female teachers who can show you that you can get there.

Don’t let the fact that engineering is almost all boys right now bother you. Unless you go into engineering, there won’t be any more girls in it!