Tell us a little bit about you:
I am Agusti Egea, a gay Lecturer in the Electronic and Electrical Engineering department originally from Figueres, Catalonia. After some years working in different parts of the world, my partner and I moved to Glasgow in 2016 where I was offered a position in the wind turbine industry. In 2018, I moved to Strathclyde to start a new professional adventure as Lecturer. We love cycling and camping in the Scottish isles during the weeks (or days?) of Scottish summer. We do not have any pets yet but we are planning to adopt two cats in the near future!
What is your area of research and what project(s) are you working on now?
My research seeks to increase the penetration of renewable power into the electrical network, designing new control algorithms for converter interfaced generation, such as wind turbines. At this moment, I am doing research to understand the stability and operational requirements of the future power network and how renewable power can supply them. A 100% renewable electrical generation is closer than you think!
When was your interest in STEM/your field first sparked and why?
When I was a kid, I was very curious to understand how things work. In particular, I was captivated by planes. I wanted to study aeronautic engineering, but eventually, I decided to study electrical engineering. The idea that something invisible can move big things like trains or illuminate an entire city fascinated me more than planes.
Who or what inspired you to stick with STEM when you were younger?
Even though there are no engineers in my family, my parents supported me as much as they could - visiting museums, buying books, and, even when I had to choose my university degree, they arranged meetings with engineers for me! From my father, a carpenter, I learned how to transform an idea sketched into a piece of paper into something real as well as how to be creative to fix broken stuff! Regarding my academic career, I learned the passion for teaching from my mother, a driving instructor. Also, in the 90s there was a change in the Spanish education system where technology was introduced as a compulsory course at secondary school, this helped me to have a taste of different areas of engineering before I started university.
What challenges do you think STEM disciplines face with regards to issues of diversity and inclusion and what should a supportive, inclusive STEM community look like?
Engineering has traditionally been seen as a very masculine (and white, heterosexual) discipline. In recent years, several engineering companies have embraced diversity and inclusion with very good results, but, still, there is a lot of work to be done. There are many stereotypes that need to be broken and people should be able to be themselves in the workplace. Engineering faculties, to some extent, are a reflection of the industry and I believe that diversity and inclusion should be included in the engineering (and other disciplines’) curricula. We should find new ways to move from just accepting diversity towards full inclusion in our everyday work. Training university staff in diversity and inclusion is another area that we should work on. It’s very important to educate ourselves and be aware of what issues underrepresented groups face.
In your career, what are the moments that have made you proudest so far?
As an engineer, the greatest professional satisfaction that I can get is when I see my design or ideas working. I have very good memories when I was a PhD student or when I was working in the industry, after hours of calculations, models and simulations what I was designing for months finally worked. Since I became Lecturer, I don’t have as much time as before to do research but I feel the same feeling every time that one of my students make things work.
Since STEM career paths are rarely easy to navigate, what challenges have you faced along the way?
Manage the new responsibilities that I got when I became an academic was a real challenge to me. All of a sudden, I had not as much time as before to do my research and I had to attract funding and recruit people to work on my research ideas. After more than two years, I feel that I am still learning how to manage people and research but it is a very gratifying experience that can help me to achieve my research goals quicker and with high standards. I am happy to see the people working with me progressing and providing input on my ideas.
Where do you find support to sustain you in your current career?
Professionally speaking, I am very lucky to work with very supportive colleagues at Strathclyde that mentored me from the first day that I came from industry. They helped me to improve my research, academic, and managerial skills and they are always happy to provide valuable advice. From a personal perspective, my partner is very supportive and always has encouraged me to try new things and keep moving forward.
What advice would you give to a young person considering a career in STEM?
Careers in STEM can be complex and, from time to time, you might need to change your direction. I would advise a young person considering a career in STEM to keep motivated working in what they like and to create a network to support them. It is important to understand that mistakes can happen but they can be addressed. Also, It is important to understand that a negative result (wrong hypothesis, or not getting the expected result in an experiment) is a valid result.
Fun question: Tell us two truths and a lie about you.
a) Once I won a Nintendo Wii in a raffle. b) Last year I was awarded the best teacher of the Faculty of Engineering. c) I do love a good deep-fried Mars bar.