Kat Burdett, Research and Development Engineer, Techbuyer
What is your current role?
Research and Development Engineer at Techbuyer Ltd
What does that involve, look like on a day-to-day basis?
- Design of experiments and design of experimental equipment
- Maintenance, upgrading, and building of that equipment
- Performing experiments, analysing results, drawing conclusions
- Drafting research papers, internal literature, and research proposals
- Thought leadership
How did you get started working in STEM?
A love of understanding, of figuring out how something worked combined with a love of aircraft led to degree in Aerospace and Aeronautical engineering. This further evolved into an interest in thermodynamics and energy flows at a broader scale, which combined with the mentoring of some amazing thought leaders in the field lead me to data centre research at a postgraduate and industrial level.
What qualifications did you take or gain along the way?
- 1st Class MEng Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering from University of Leeds
- PhD Mechanical Engineering from University of Leeds
Why do you love working in STEM?
Understanding and the application of that understanding are fundamental to our evolution as people and as a species. Thats true at a mechanical level, at a sociological level, at an economic level, at an ecological level, and the interconnection and intersection of these things should drive progress – where progress is defined as raising the quality of life of as many people in as many ways as possible.
What challenges have you faced in your career? And how have you overcome them?
I’m a trans woman in a historically conservative field and that has layered complications into every element of my life. I was forced to live a double life for many years, completely separating personal and professional lives into two polar opposite identities, for fear of losing my livelihood. Between the aired views of my superiors and the general societal distain for trans people these weren’t unfounded fears, and so I compartmentalised. This has added considerable strain to my life, and I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have the love and support of my family and friends to keep me going – and equally fortunate to find a workplace and a team that is just as supportive.
What advice would you offer for someone joining the STEM sectors?
The status quo will only get you so far. Diversity is strength, and a unison of differing opinions and perspectives will always bring a more innovative or creative result than a choir of homogeneity. That homogeneity in STEM *is* changing, and while there will always be push back, it will not stop progress. Embrace and celebrate peoples differences – that way ingenuity and innovation lies.
What do we need to do as an industry to attract and keep more women in STEM?
Intersectional representation, across all sectors and all levels of STEM. There are women of all minorities, cultural diversities, and sexual and gender identities – any/every one of them is as valuable and worthwhile and capable of wonderful things, if given the same opportunities their white male counterparts have historically been granted. And equality – or equity – does not always mean providing the same resources to everyone, but ensuring everyone has the right support and empowerment needed for them to succeed in equal measure. Everyone has a right to see, but that doesn’t mean we all need glasses.