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Emilia De Luca

Undergraduate student, Motorsport Engineering, Coventry University

 

And - Youngest attendee, FISITA Eurobrake

Being asked the same questions over and over can be boring and frustrating at times, but you’re helping to break down stereotypes every time you have that conversation. 

What do you do?

I study motorsport engineering, which is mechanical engineering applied to racing cars. This means I’m learning about how racing cars work, are designed and improved, and how to analyse them using the skills of mechanical engineering, in the hope it leads to a job in the motorsport industry. 

 

Why did you choose this field?

Growing up I was pretty good at most subjects, but maths and sciences were my particularly strong subjects. I was lucky that my upper school had a really good engineering/DT department, and the wonderful teachers I had helped me foster a love of engineering as a way to use my maths and practical skills. The school had a Young Engineers club that designed, built, maintained and raced 2 single-seater electric racing cars against other schools at various UK race tracks in the Greenpower F24/24+ series’, so I spent 5 years in the team. I helped developed some new strategy processes for battery management, drivers and race day processes (that they still use today), and was team leader in my later years in the team. I’d always loved F1 as a child, but Greenpower cemented my love of motorsport and I didn’t want to give it up when I left school, so I decided to study motorsport engineering at university. 


I was also lucky to have work experience during Sixth Form in the composites department at the Williams F1 team, which was a great insight into how Formula 1 cars are made and what an engineering company is like. I even got to help make some small parts that went onto the Williams car for a Grand Prix!

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

"I remember being a 15 year old who loved engineering but was worried I’d never have the confidence to do it -  but only 4 years on I proved myself wrong."

Last year I got the opportunity to attend FISITA Eurobrake, which is the world’s largest conference about braking, through a bursary scheme. Younger me never would have expected me to apply and be one of only 50 students Worldwide to be successful to the programme (which was worth thousands, and I would never have been able to go otherwise), let alone be the youngest student accepted on the programme, fly to The Netherlands on my own, and spend 4 days attending academic paper sessions and networking with students and engineers from all over the world.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love being in STEM for so many reasons. Studying an engineering degree means I can use my maths knowledge and IT skills, I get to constantly challenge myself and use my brain, and learn and collaborative with some great lecturers and students. I’ve met some wonderful people and made great friends through university and STEM activities I’m involved in, and I love being able to help encourage and inspire a new generation of engineers and scientists. There are some really lovely and supportive STEM communities out there- I’ve particularly found my space in Women in Engineering spaces, both online and through organisations such as WES (Women's Engineering Society). I’ve discovered I enjoy attending engineering conferences and I’ve also been able to use my love of STEM subjects for fun too- I’ve volunteered at events such as The Big Bang Fair and Coventry Motofest, and in my spare time I like to try and design/create/craft things.

Best advice for the next generation

It’s okay to not be the “poster girl” of STEM all the time. There can be expectations to be involved in STEM outreach and encouraging the younger generation all the time, but it’s also okay to take a break from it or focus on your own career/studies. Studying a STEM degree/working in STEM can be wonderful and rewarding (and rather challenging), but you can lose track of that if you focus too much on inspiring others. 

Be prepared to get lots of questions from family, family friends etc. Being asked the same questions over and over can be boring and frustrating at times, but you’re helping to break down stereotypes every time you have that conversation. 

Just give it a go! Studying/working in STEM can be challenging and difficult, but it can also be fun and rewarding, and there’s some wonderful communities of people in STEM out there too to support you (and now more than ever great organisations and charities too). And if you give it a go and it’s not for you, that’s okay too.

Fun fact

Despite previously being a racing driver for 5 years (in the Greenpower F24 and F24+ series’), I don’t have a driving licence and can’t drive a “real” car!