As part of our focus on women in engineering and applied science for International Women in Engineering Day, Valerie Houlden tells us why she finds her career in water management so rewarding.
"I am passionate about my work as I want to help to protect and improve our environment for people today and the generations of the future. This has become even more important to me since I became a mother nearly two years ago; I want my daughter to have a bright future on a peaceful and healthy planet. Managing our water in a sustainable way, protecting our ecosystems and combating climate change are critical for the future of our world. I’m lucky because I have a job where I can use science to help achieve these things.
I’ve had so many exciting and interesting opportunities throughout my career, including:
- Getting wet and muddy doing field measurements after big floods, including Boscastle in 2004.
- Analysing the impacts of climate change on sustainable development to provide the science that informed the negotiations to reach the Paris 2015 climate change agreement.
- Working with international researchers to develop ways to restore the health of our rivers.
- Working with water companies in the UK to plan how our water use is managed for the next 25 years.
I found my path in water management science through my interest in geography at school. At university, I studied geography as a degree and water resources management and technology as a masters.
I came to work at HR Wallingford because my colleague, Dr Paul Samuels, gave a talk to my masters class at university. His passion for cutting edge science in the management of water and floods was inspiring. I have been supported by both men and women throughout my career and currently work in a group of 50/50 men-women scientists and engineers.
To girls thinking about STEM subjects at school or university, or women thinking of a career change into science or engineering, I would definitely say go for it! There are so many fantastic opportunities in science and engineering."