Be creative and innovative - any new idea could be the solution you were looking for
Laura Montano is a PhD student at WRL, conducting experimental research to better understand the three-dimensional behaviour in hydraulic jumps.
The most important insight of Laura’s research is to enhance the current design of stilling basins and increase the aeration efficiency rate in water treatment plants.
We asked Laura about how she got into the field of engineering, and the dedication required to undertake a PhD.
Why did you get into engineering?
“Before beginning my bachelor degree, someone gave me the inspiration to study engineering: “Engineering comes from the Latin ‘Ingenium’ which means creativity”; this is why I chose engineering. Engineering goes beyond conceptual ideas, always looking to solve a new challenge. The decisions you make as an engineer can have a significant impact on the community, giving engineers the responsibility to transform conceptual ideas into social solutions.
Also, engineering covers such a broad spectrum, which means that an engineering career is never limited to one topic. For example, although I chose Environmental Engineering and my area of expertise is hydraulics; I have had the opportunity to work with mechanical, chemical and civil engineers along my professional development, giving me the opportunity to learn continuously from different areas and to open my mind to new solutions from different perspectives.”
What do people not understand about what you do?
“The complexity of hydraulic jumps. Although hydraulic jumps are widely and historically used to dissipate energy in stilling basins, the information of the energy dissipation process remains unclear, because the hydraulic jump reflects the concept of turbulence, and that does not have a precise definition. Finding a closer approach to the understanding of energy dissipation in hydraulic jumps will provide an enormous step in hydraulic structure designs. Transforming the current empirical design of stilling basins based on a theoretical design will improve the efficiency of the jump significantly.”
What advice would you give to prospective engineers interested in undertaking a PhD?
"My main advice is to be passionate about your topic. Your PhD will become your new ‘best friend’."
“I would describe the PhD process as a roller coaster with smooth and rough times. Undertaking research means you need to find something that has not been investigated before, which often means hard work and frustration at times. My main advice is to be passionate about your topic. Your PhD will become your new ‘best friend’. In other words, you will need to do relentless reading, researching and brainstorming.
My other advice is to be organised and define your goals weekly or monthly. I have identified that if I do not have a proper schedule of my time, I will not be as efficient as I would have been if I had weekly goals. This strategy also gives me doses of motivation to continue with my research that are necessary during the lowest trough of the ‘roller coaster’. Be creative and innovative. Any new idea could be the solution you were looking for.
Finally, my last piece of advice is to be resilient. After completing my PhD, I hope to be graduating as a professional with the ability to solve problems easily, be naturally curious, and have the skills to look for innovative ways to change the world.”