MAKING AN IMPACT AS AN ENGINEER
Christie Twist is a specialist in a relatively unknown field of engineering but one that pervades our everyday lives. Even if we don’t realise it.
Christie had very little knowledge of engineering at high school. It was thanks to one of her teachers, noticing her flair for maths and science, that brought it to her attention. Taking her teacher’s advice, she went on to study Mechanical Engineering at university.
During her degree she did a placement year at an oil and gas company where she worked across various engineering disciplines from design work to materials testing. It was here that she discovered her passion for tribology, the little-known study of friction, lubrication and wear and went on to obtain a PhD in it.
“Tribology is a strange name for very common phenomena; without it many of our everyday tasks we take for granted would be unmanageable. Everything from the brakes in our cars to the shoes on our feet all depend on the science of friction. This is why engineering is so important" she says.
Tribology is also fundamental to the operation of many mechanical systems, especially rotating machinery. In just about every field technological advancement and tribological innovation go hand in hand.
"A large percentage of global energy production is taken up by unnecessary friction and wear at critical points in the system, so each improvement we make could have a significant effect on energy efficiency. This is the area that I’m really interested in."
Christie works in Smith’s John Crane division as a Development Team Leader in Gas Seals R&D, focusing on innovation for gas seals in the energy industry. She uses tribological solutions to develop seals that can cope with ever more challenging operating conditions whilst reducing emissions.
Gas seals are now being used in more areas and industries than ever before. They’re found in compressors and pumps, and their condition is vital to machine reliability, avoiding unnecessary downtime and minimising environmental impact.
"As an engineer I need to think outside the box and use innovative techniques to push the boundaries of what seals are capable of."
Christie is keen to make an impact in other ways too, such as increasing the number of women in engineering. She is member of the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers and regularly participates in STEM events and talks for young women.
"I never realised engineering was an option for me until someone brought it to my attention. Now it’s my turn to make young women aware of the fantastic opportunities a career in engineering can offer."
She is also a member of John Crane’s Professional Women’s Network which aims to bring women across the division together to share knowledge and offer career support.
Christie talks avidly about creating an environment where women can thrive. “Being a female mechanical engineer has certainly had its challenges. At one company I was denied opportunities because they didn’t believe our customers would take a female engineer seriously. But this and other experiences have only strengthened my resolve to succeed. The industry is getting better, and will continue to get better as more women are represented in technical roles. The fact that John Crane is supporting the Professional Women’s Network is a great example of improvements being made to encourage diversity in engineering.”
In the future Christie hopes to continue working on interesting projects and pushing herself to find solutions for ever more difficult challenges.
"I feel extremely proud to be an engineer. The best part for me is going to work and knowing that what I do can have a huge impact on the world. I would urge any young women to consider a career in engineering. If you want to make an impact, the opportunities are endless."