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Marie Grace Umumararungu #WomeninScience

Marie Grace Umumararungu is a civil engineer in Rwanda. Her research concerns studying and modelling the effects of scour on rocks and the impact on bridge failure.

What excites you about your research?

I first encountered civil engineering during work experience with a local firm in September 2010. I was working on rehabilitation of bridges suspended and suspension footbridges and I noticed how the scour causes bridge failure. Whilst there, I was inspired and extra motivated by that opportunity to work hard so that I could conduct research to contribute to finding solutions.

During my research, I was impressed by using some very elegant mathematics and combining them with engineering principles and theory to come up with findings. Sometimes this equation involved a few pages of careful sums or getting a supercomputer to process a few billion calculations.

During that research, it was also my first time to hear the term “computational fluid dynamics” and it seemed that I had limitations on large datasets and complex model as I was going to work with the team who has the best background in modelling and familiar with algorithms. It was important that I had to invest the smart and efficient effort to succeed in my research.

What advice would you give women and girls interested in going into your research area?

I would recommend, not only those who want to walk in my steps but also all those who fear STEM fields, to find their passion. They will be successful in their field as long as you have a real passion for it. Be open – open to new ideas and open to change and grow as much as you can.

I would say plan, but be available. You want to have a career plan but sometimes an opportunity will come. An opportunity that you didn’t expect and hadn’t considered. When that opportunity comes, grab it!

I would say use the skill sets and tools that STEM gives you to analyze complex problems and come up with logical solutions in any field, whether it is finance, sociology, management, entrepreneurship etc.

View the challenges you will face as empowering stepping stones to you becoming your best you. Seriously girls, if you are going to pay for college today, I recommend choosing a STEM field. I have no regrets! Given a chance, I would do STEM all over again. Moreover, I’m truly excited about engineering career opportunities for women because we haven’t reached the maximum impact STEM will have in the future. It’s ours to decide!

Today, I have no regrets – engineering made me who I am today. Engineering helped me with my critical thinking skills and my ability to analyse problems or challenges starting from basic fundamentals. I have also developed my ability to manage my emotions and feelings and to let data and facts lead me.