Development & Alumni Relations Office 



QUEEN'S GRADUATE IS ‘BEST NEWLY CHARTERED FEMALE ENGINEER 2019/20’

29 November 2020

As reported in the Irish Post on 19 November 2020, Queen’s Chemical Engineer Bridgeen Mc Carron has received a prestigious award from the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE), the global professional engineering body with more than 35,000 members in over 100 countries worldwide.

Commended for her outstanding work in the industry and for promoting women in the male-dominated sector, Bridgeen was not only recognised as the ‘Best Newly Chartered Female Engineer’ of the year, but was also nominated by IChemE for the Karen Burt Memorial Award, a highly prestigious annual award offered by WES, the Women's Engineering Society, to encourage more women to aim for, and celebrate the achievement of, Chartered Engineer status.

Speaking about the award Bridgeen said:

“Proud, humbled and thankful are just a few words of what it means to me to be recognised,” said Bridgeen.

“I am a big believer that if you work hard – put your heart and soul into something – you will be rewarded. It was a complete surprise to be approached by IChemE to interview for this recognition and a shock to be selected to represent them as their Karen Burt Memorial Award nominee.

“I have had the privilege of working with some incredible engineers and it's as a result of their patience, mentoring and my eagerness to take every opportunity to learn that I was even considered.

“Growing up in Donegal an Engineer isn't a common job, so I think what it means to me most is that hopefully more young people might see this and think ‘Oh, that looks interesting. I might do that’”.

A Queen’s Master of Engineering (MEng) in Chemical Engineering (2012) graduate, Bridgeen is currently Production Team Leader on BP's 100,000 tonne, 880 ft long floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel, Glen Lyon. The ship, believed to be the largest ‘harsh water’ FPSO craft in the world, is anchored to the seabed at the Schiehallion and Loyal oil fields in the North Sea, 170km northwest of the Shetland Islands, in waters 1,300ft deep.

A Process Engineer with wide experience of the oil and energy industry, Bridgeen moved to Scotland after leaving Queen’s to join BP and has been with the company for the last eight years.

While at University Bridgeen spent 12 months at a multinational biopharmaceutical company which has featured prominently in the news in recent weeks.

“In my industrial placement year, I worked in R&D for AstraZeneca in Loughborough to figure out if I wanted to go down the PhD route. I quickly established – although the work was good – that I would struggle to motivate myself in the way required to achieve success and enjoyment from a PhD.”

In her final year Bridgeen started to apply to different companies until she landed the graduate engineer job with BP.

“I didn't know what to expect but from the first day that I was based at the Forties Pipeline System at Kinneil in Grangemouth, I knew Engineering was for me. Eight years in – the last two working offshore – and I’m loving my job! Things couldn't have worked out better.”

Originally from Drumfries in Clonmany on the Inishowen peninsula, Bridgeen is one of a family of ten children. In March of this year she returned to the North West to address pupils from her former school – Scoil Mhuire in Buncrana – as part of the 2020 Engineers’ Week.

Life at Queen’s

During her time at Queen’s Bridgeen enjoyed student life in halls, making many lifelong friends before subsequently moving into private rented accommodation. Not surprisingly, she got involved in the Chemical Engineering Society though she did also ‘try her hand’ at ski diving. For her, University was a busy and hugely fulfilling experience.

“I loved my time at Queen’s! Halls! The entire first year experience! Moving from Donegal to the ‘big smoke’. Nights in the Union, all-nighters in the McClay and before that in the Science Library squirrelled away down the back, finishing work. Going for a cup of tea in Clements and still being there 4 hours later talking to a friend. The labs first thing on a Wednesday, after the Limelight on a Tuesday!” said Bridgeen.  

And it wasn’t just the social side of University life that she relished – the people she met and the opportunities she was presented with along the way, also rate highly among her fondest memories.

“Some of my dearest friends who I meet in the most random of ways! The people in the Chemical Engineering department, the friends I made on my course and them turning up to the library in force to help me out with an assignment so we could all then go out together, and the opportunity to go aboard. I did BEI (Study USA) and went to Tulsa, Oklahoma for a year to study.

“And of course there was my placement year – the incredible experience living and working in Loughborough.

“I wouldn't change a single thing.”

It may be eight years since she graduated but Bridgeen hasn’t forgotten her alma mater, returning on several occasions to encourage the next generation.

“I have been back three or four times with BP as part of their graduate recruitment events in the Whitla Hall and have given a number of career talks to the Chemical Engineering department.

“I think people at Queen’s, and in Northern Ireland in general, definitely underrate their own credentials and I am a huge advocate for going back and making sure they know just how good they are. How great Queen's is!

And she’s proud of her academic achievement.

“My Master’s means a lot to me. I am proud of what I achieved at Queen’s and that I did it while having an amazing time. Maybe I pushed it a bit at times, but I would do it all again if I could.”

Bridgeen remains in contact with several former Queen’s classmates, among them four members of her year group who are now also at BP and another who works for an engineering company in Aberdeen.

Karen Burt Memorial Award

Before making their announcement IChemE interviewed several shortlisted candidates for the award before finalising their decision.

As reported by Fiona Audley in the Irish Post the Institute said to Ms Mc Carron: “It was clear from the interview that you have made great strides forward in your career, and that you have been very active in promoting engineering to other women.

“The shortlisted candidates were all excellent, but it was your enthusiasm and joy for your work and in supporting and developing others which were the final deciders.”

The annual Women's Engineering Society award for which Bridgeen is now a candidate recognises ‘excellence and potential in the practice of engineering and highlights the importance of Chartered status, as well as offering recognition to contributions made by the individual to the promotion of the engineering profession’.

As she awaits the outcome of the WES award, how would Bridgeen try to inspire other young women to apply for so-called non-traditional roles? 

“For me, you can't be, what you can't see. There are so many incredible programmes out there to encourage women into STEM at university and secondary school, and many more at an apprenticeship level.

“I try to encourage women by being a face to a role, a person to talk to, to question and most importantly a person that they can relate to.

“I remember what it was like to start working on a facility offshore with a workforce of around 200 that was 98 per cent men and thinking gosh what will this be like. Turns out its ok.

“It's all about having someone who has been through it to tell you that it’s ok!

The winner of the Karen Burt Memorial Award will be announced on December 10.

For general enquiries about this story, or to submit items of graduate news, please contact Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office, Queen's University Belfast. 

Main image credit: BP's Glen Lyon FPSO, courtesy of bp Images

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