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Wanda Lewis

I didn't intend to have a career in Engineering. I studied Polish, Mathematics, Economics and Technology at school (A level equivalents), with the intention to study architecture at a university in Poland, but my hand drawing was not up to the required standard. Having graduated with a civil engineering degree in Poland, I obtained an MSc degree in Foundation Engineering and a PhD in Structures in the UK. After a short spell in industry (1983-86), I joined the University of Warwick, where I stayed to this day. I am now an Emeritus Professor in the School of Engineering. I am also a Chartered Engineer and a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

I develop form-finding methods for predicting optimal shapes of buildings and bridges, depending on statistically prevalent loads, such as structures’ self weight (a feature observed in Nature). I authored numerous research papers and a research monograph “Tension Structures: Form and Behaviour”, in which the concept of form-finding is the main theme. My research expertise becomes a focus of the media and technical press from time to time, such as an article on Boris Johnson’s English Channel bridge, for example:

I led a number of interesting national and European research projects in collaboration with industry (Arup, Jaguar, Roll-Royce, SL-Rach, Canobbio Textile Engineering) as well as a multi-disciplinary project 'Designing for the 21st Century' in collaboration with the Courtauld Institute of Art, London.

My experiences of working in a male-dominated environment (both industry and academia) have been mixed, but rewarding. I think that anyone considering studying civil engineering should be prepared to fight their corner later in their professional careers.

I would like to crown my career by securing funding for the development of a novel, natural form of biomedical scaffold for bone grafting. This would be a fitting end to my research on form-finding.

Fact file

Where did you grow up? Poland

Where do you currently work? University of Warwick, School of Engineering

What’s your position? Emeritus Professor

Can you describe a typical day? Writing research papers, generating new research ideas, attending meetings

What interests do you have outside of work? Natural medicine, art, film