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Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction

Transforming infrastructure through smarter information

Name: Timea Nochta, Research Assistant in Urban Systems and Infrastructure at CSIC

• How and why did you get into engineering?

I suppose engineering is an obvious choice after a degree in Architecture and a PhD in Social Science. Joking aside, I think that there is a growing interest and acknowledgement in the engineering community around the social impact of the solutions engineers design. On the other hand, there is very little technical knowledge in the social science community. My research interest lies in bridging this gap.

• What is your current position and what does it entail?

Currently I work as a Research Assistant at CSIC while also finishing up my PhD at the Institute of Local Government Studies, University of Birmingham. Together with another colleague, we are responsible for the project ‘Digital Cities for Change’ (DC2) which aims to uncover the role of digital technology in the planning and management of cities. DC2 poses questions that are inherently interdisciplinary, hence it fits my research profile very well.

 What motivates/interests you about what you do?

I have always been a keen city dweller and therefore have a personal interest in finding ways to make cities better places to live. Currently, the digital explosion offers countless solutions to city challenges, albeit their societal impact, and in fact whether they are capable of delivering the promised benefits, is still unclear. We need to build better understanding of these issues in order to be able to exploit the opportunities that lie in data and tech, and to contain the associated risks and side-effects.

• What has helped shape your career – people, colleagues, family?

Family is definitely the first one to be mentioned: my parents have always been a source of support and advice. However, I also believe that social networks and relationships with others, friends and colleagues, is very important in achieving career (and other) goals. There is a lot of knowledge and opportunities out there, but you need others to get access to these things.

• What have you gained from working with CSIC? Or hope to gain?

I have only recently joined CSIC but I already feel very much ‘at home’, and this is mainly down to how friendly and welcoming people are at the Centre. The regular events, meetings, conferences or just casual gatherings after work are very inspiring and are great sources of information.

Due to its excellent reputation and great connections within and outside the academic work, I think that CSIC offers a unique opportunity to do research that has a real-life impact ,which is very important for me.

• How have you overcome challenges/knockbacks in your working/academic life?

Of course, research is always challenging, especially interdisciplinary work. Developing content that is relevant to, and useful for, different communities of knowledge and practice is very difficult, and I feel I have only just started on the road that leads towards this aim.

• What is the best thing about what you do?

There is no better feeling than discovering something that was not known before.

• Where would you like to see your career going? What’s next?

As I have only recently started at CSIC, my focus is currently on making the most out of the project we are working on here.

• Do you have any role models?

I admire all women who can own a meeting room filled with over-confident men.

• What do you think might encourage more women to work in science and engineering?

I think moving away from gender stereotypes, starting from early childhood, would be a good way to start… And, although probably there is still a lot to do to include the female voice in engineering research and practice, the acknowledgement that this needs to change is there and it is growing. This provides a great opportunity for women to get involved.

• Do you have any advice for women who may be considering pursuing a career in this area?

As I said before – probably there was no better time in history for women to get into science and engineering. Let’s make the most of this opportunity!