Dr Barnali Ghosh - FICE, Mott MacDonald, London, UK

Mott MacDonald, London, UK
All my projects, directly or indirectly, contribute towards fulfilling the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Dr Barnali Ghosh, FICE, Mott MacDonald, London, UK

I have successfully translated my specialist knowledge of seismic engineering from Research to Civil Engineering Practice.

I was first introduced to Geotechnical Engineering during my undergraduate days. What fascinated me most about this field of engineering was that soil was so unpredictable! Unlike concrete, you could not assign a set strength to it, and it was always challenging you intellectually to understand whether drained or undrained behaviour was governing; and whether the groundwater was seeping through and changing the effective strength parameters.

After graduating I worked in India in the nuclear industry and though seismic issues were considered very difficult, I continued learning this subject through my Master's and PhD at Cambridge University, where I got hooked on earthquake geotechnics. I was fascinated by the numerical analysis needed to design seismically resilient structures and how to apply that analysis to large structures. As a seismic engineer, one is always trying to mitigate the effects of destructive forces, including climate change, so I think that the wider industry has much to learn from seismic engineering.

I chose to work in the engineering consulting sector as I felt that it would be more challenging to make my mark there as a woman! I have built my professional career around advanced knowledge gathered during my PhD and have successfully translated my deep knowledge of seismic engineering from the field of research to civil engineering practice.

I often represent Mott MacDonald as the Seismic Specialist in major infrastructure works.

Mott MacDonald, London, UK
Throughout the last 22 years, I have worked on prestigious projects worldwide, addressing the world’s most significant challenges in developing seismic resilience and safety in their infrastructure. My technical lead role in projects involves assessing seismic risks, using innovative techniques to design, and finally communicating risk to stakeholders and broader society, enabling safer designs.

I can highlight my role in many projects of international significance where my innovative solutions helped to fulfill the UN sustainability goals, provide better outcomes, and lead to better infrastructure and construction developments. This includes my contribution to the Dhaka Environmentally Sustainable Water Supply Project, Bangladesh, which will supply drinking water to 4M people in Dhaka by building a 100km new pipeline, some of the deepest tunnels in Bangladesh, and the country’s biggest treatment plant.

My work has led to recognition and awards, including the Top 50 Women in Engineering Awards (2020) by the Woman Engineering Society.

I am also a Royal Academy visiting professor for Cambridge University for geoseismic engineering and a fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers (FICE). The BGA (British Geotechnical Association) recently awarded me the prestigious John Mitchell Award for making a significant contribution to Geotechnical Engineering.

This was the first time a woman had been selected for this award! It has not been easy for me to balance my career and family, but I have never wanted to be recognised just for being a woman, but for making a mark in the industry.

Winning the award was also a key moment for seismic engineering too as it demonstrates that the sector has become more mainstream with the need for projects to be more resilient. The honour comes with a responsibility to pass on the knowledge to aspiring engineers.

I would urge all women geotechnical engineers to believe in the power of networking.

The key challenges that I have had to fight throughout my career have been related to the perception that a woman cannot be ambitious and family-oriented at the same time. However, if you have the technical knowledge and the passion for what you are doing, success will find you no matter what obstacles come your way. Each obstacle is an opportunity that forces you to think outside the box, and I would urge all women Geotechnical engineers to reach out to others who have taken this journey before you and believe in the power of “WE.”

I spend a considerable amount of time mentoring young women to reach for their dreams. I would urge them to take risks when it comes to their career development and do the work that inspires them.
NBM&CW - March 2024
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