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Interview with Laura Marimon Giovannetti

Published Mar 28, 2022
Laura Marimon Giovannetti

What is your role as affiliated faculty?

The main role is helping in supervising master and PhD students and creating a bridge with the industry. I am looking to create possibilities for industrial PhD students that can be employed by SSPA, the company I work for. Another important role is to understand better what different researchers do in KTH and share my knowledge in the department.

Taking up a new position is a challenge on its own. What has your experience been so far?

My experience so far has been very positive. I could not be in KTH that much yet as I travel quite a lot for work, but I managed to meet most people in the department, and we have already started some collaborations and future plans.

Tell us a little bit about you and your educational background?

I graduated with both MEng and PhD at the University of Southampton, where I studied ship science, naval architecture. I specialised in yacht and small crafts and, as I was sailing at a very high level myself, representing Great Britain around the world, I was lucky enough to study some of the boats I was also sailing. Another highlight is that I was a member of the design team of British America’s Cup challenger for the 35th America’s Cup during my PhD. In the meantime, I was still sailing, and in 2018 and 2019, I have been a member of the British Sailing Team full time to try and win the trials for Tokyo 2020. Those experiences brought me to work quite closely with sports, not only sailing, so now for some projects, I work as a “sports engineer” for the Swedish Olympic Committee.

Why did you choose the field of naval architecture? What made you interested in it?

Sailing has always been a part of me. I started sailing when I was six and competed since I was 12, so when I had to choose what to study, I didn’t hesitate! I must say that I was also fortunate as I found myself being involved early on in foiling boats and at the right place at the right time. This allowed me to meet and now call friends some of the best sailors, researchers and designers in the world!

How come are you pursuing academic work along with your work at SSPA? Are the two jobs somewhat related?

I work in SSPA for the research department, so in reality, in our team, we are very much focused on research. Creating a bridge with KTH is an honour for me, and I hope I can contribute to enhancing the collaborations between SSPA and KTH in the future.

What is your work at SSPA about? What makes it important?

I started working two years ago in SSPA. I have been involved from the beginning with the Wallenius Marine project “the oceanbird” under the guidance of an amazing colleague Sofia Werner. In the past year, I have expanded my projects as I now work quite a lot with foiling boats and with the Swedish sailing team and the Olympic committee. What drives me in those projects is both the strong link with sailing and the sustainability aspects of greener shipping.

What are the biggest challenges your work/research combats?

I love challenges, so I always try to overcome them. An aspect that is challenging is managing both experimental results and numerical simulations. With the help of students and other researchers, we are trying to overcome the problems that we are faced with. 

What have been the most significant career challenges for you so far?

I think that a very challenging thing but extremely rewarding when you overcome it is managing experiments in their entirety. During the experimental campaigns that start a lot earlier than the actual date you start testing, you know that you need to deliver because every day in an experimental facility is costly. I usually work very well during experiments, but I know they are hard, and the working hours can be extremely long. However, seeing something that you have designed and built work as you want is just excellent and pays you back from all the hard work. 

What is your experience as a woman in engineering and sciences?

My experience, in general, has been very good, I have always worked well both with male and female colleagues, and I like a mixed environment. However, I realise that we should have a lot more female engineers and scientists as in my experience female are good at what they set their minds to. So I have given many lectures to school girls to try and get them to study a scientific subject. I hope the future will bring more gender balance, but I can already see a shift into more females studying engineering. 

What advice would you give to young women interested in becoming scientists?

My advice is to study what you love. Unlike in school where you need to educate in many different topics and rightly so, at university you can specialise in subjects that you enjoy. The first few years are more general, and therefore you should remember that you are putting the base for your future, but after the second or third year you start choosing the subjects, and there you can make a difference. I also think that engineering now is extremely exciting as we are integrating many technologies to live a more sustainable life, so incorporating the environment in new designs. This can potentially be an attractive topic for more female students.

How could we attract more females into the field of engineering and sciences? Are there any actions taken by your work environment about it?

I personally try to give lectures and seminars in schools tailored to female students. Aside from that, as I say above, I think pushing the sustainability and materials aspect is quite appealing to girls. Engineers are not only formula one engineers, so it is important that we share this with the community. 

Is it vital for you to communicate your work and research to the world? If yes, why, and how do you do that?

Yes, most of the projects I am involved in need to be published, and I enjoy presenting at conferences and seminars. I also try to publish in scientific journals and keep up to date with new advances in different techniques. 

Text: Elina Charatsidou