University of Leeds: The women engineers making their profession more sustainable

A leading researcher at Leeds has been named as one of the most influential women in engineering.

Professor Ornella Iuorio, who is Director of the University’s Cities, Infrastructure and Energy research group, is recognised in the Top 50 Women in Engineering Awards 2022 that have just been announced.

Her research in architectural engineering and structures is bridging the gap between the traditionally separate fields of architecture and engineering to develop new and more sustainable construction methods.

Professor Iuorio, who is based in the School of Civil Engineering, has led research into the design and application of lightweight steel structures used to construct buildings in earthquake zones and for the large-scale manufacture of prefabricated homes.

Sustainable construction
Her other research interests include ways of retrofitting outdated or dilapidated housing, and how to build back better homes and neighbourhoods damaged by natural disasters. She is leading the international Novavida project in which experts are developing proposals for post-disaster reconstructions that will allow the long-term sustainable development of people in Ecuador.

She is one of the co-investigators in the Circular Economy Centre for Mineral-based Construction Materials, funded by UK Research and Innovation, to develop circular economy practices in the UK construction industry, where the emphasis is on renovating buildings and reusing mineral-based materials such as bricks and stone.

Her team is also researching the use of robots in construction.

On hearing she had been named in the top 50 list, Professor Iuorio said: “I feel very honoured that I have been nominated and I am excited that I am among a group of very talented and incredible individuals who are striving for a more sustainable and just future.

“I hope the awards will also inspire other women who want to become engineers and to follow their dreams.”

The Top 50 Women in Engineering awards were launched seven years ago by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES), to recognise those women whose research or engineering practice was making a difference. A full list of this year’s winners can be found on the Guardian website.

This year, many of the women were nominated for engineering practice or research in sustainability or initiatives to mitigate or reduce the impact of climate change.

Innovative women
Elizabeth Donnelly, Chief Executive Officer of WES, which organises the awards, said: “Once again WES is delighted to celebrate the achievements of women engineers.

“It is a joy that so many innovative women are making a difference to our everyday lives and working to mitigate the impact that engineering has on the environment.”

Professor Iuorio believes the Top 50 award plays an important role in demonstrating to schoolgirls and female students the breadth of engineering, and that women can achieve important and influential positions in the industry.

“The Top 50 Women in Engineering awards are important in helping to create role models for other female engineers and for students and schoolgirls who are considering studying the subject and entering the profession,“ she said.

“It shows women are playing a key part in designing, developing, building and operating the solutions that will reduce the major problems facing the world.”

With a degree in architecture and PhD in structural engineering, Professor Iuorio started her research career at MIT in the US and has published more than 100 scientific papers. She is a qualified architect in both the UK and Italy.