ExpertiseConstruction, Environmental Management, Structural
Recognised in 2022 WES Top 50 Women in Engineering list
Received the Engineers Trust’s Hawley Award for Engineering Innovation
Awarded a Royal Academy of Engineering Associate Research Fellowship in 2021
A day in my life
As an academic/researcher, every day is different.
Some days, I’m in my office meeting with my academic collaborators and industrial partners.
Other days I’m in the lab developing new concrete mixes, casting the test specimens and measuring/analysing the performance of different permeable pavement systems.
During the autumn term, I’m preparing for and teaching structural concrete design to undergraduate students. I’m also responding to emails and supervising my students daily.
I would recommend a career in civil engineering because you have the opportunity to contribute towards developing more sustainable and resilient infrastructure for our built environment, making a positive difference in the world.
Which individual project or person inspired you to become a civil engineer?
My mathematics and physics secondary school teacher was an inspiration and fostered a real interest in these fields.
I wanted to study a subject that combined the two, which, together with a childhood fascination with buildings and bridges, led to me finding and studying civil engineering.
We asked Alalea
Complete this phrase: I’m a civil engineer, but I’m also…
A researcher working in the laboratory, a teacher and supervisor of my students. On a personal level, I’m also a swimmer, a cyclist and enjoy travelling to new places.
What’s the biggest/most complex thing you’ve made out of Lego? How long did it take you?
As a child I really enjoyed building the tallest tower possible using Lego.
As an engineer, I had to develop a system to deliver the laboratory concept for my permeable pavement in the real word. My permeable pavement features cast-in plastic tubes that clip together, not unlike Lego bricks.
What about being a civil engineer gets you out of bed each morning?
Developing new solutions that will have a significant impact on our environment and society. I’m currently developing novel permeable pavements for our critical infrastructure, offering resilience to both increasing climate uncertainties and urbanisation.
What’s one great thing that you love about civil engineering that you didn’t know until you started working in the industry?
Teamwork. In any civil engineering project, everyone works together to deliver a common goal.
I knew that civil engineering wasn’t performed alone, but I never realised the extent to which I’d be working with such a broad range of talented individuals.
For example, in order to develop and deliver my permeable pavement on site, I’ve been working with a wide range of project students, laboratory technicians, academics, industrial collaborators, and onsite contractors.
Which civil engineering project (past or present) do you wish you’d worked on?
I wish that I'd been able to work on the Brooklyn Bridge. New York is one of my favourite cities and Brooklyn Bridge is an icon of this city.
This bridge pushed the boundaries of what was possible at the time - it was the first to use steel for its cables and was the longest suspension bridge in the world when it opened.
Name one civil engineering myth you’d like to bust.
That civil engineering isn’t a profession for women. I completely disagree with this. Throughout my career I’ve been exposed to many successful, inspirational and motivational female engineers.
What are you doing to help fight against climate change?
My research is motivated by the climate emergency and the challenges of urban flooding.
I’m developing a new type of permeable pavement that offers significant environmental benefits. It contributes towards net-zero carbon by 2050 through its reduced emissions, flood mitigation, water reuse and decreased urban heat island effect.
Any personal causes?
I’m particularly passionate about organising and running STEM outreach activities to encourage and inspire more women to consider a career in engineering.
One activity that I really enjoy is providing secondary school students with a snapshot of civil engineering by giving them a simplified bridge project to design.
Through this activity I hope that young women who perhaps weren’t aware of the profession and what it has to offer will be encouraged to study civil engineering.
Dr Kia's novel permeable pavement (Kiacrete) being trialled at Imperial College London’s White City Campus.
Alalea's career path
I completed my Master of Engineering (MEng) degree in Civil Engineering at University College London in 2014 and my PhD in concrete technology at Imperial College London in 2019.
I then did 2 years of postdoctoral research and was awarded a Royal Academy of Engineering Associate Research Fellowship in 2021 and UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship in 2022.
- PhD in concrete technology in 2019
- Patent in high strength porous cement-based materials in 2020
- Delivered my permeable pavement technology at Imperial’s White City Campus in 2020
- Awarded Royal Academy of Engineering Associate Research Fellowship in 2021
- Awarded UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship in 2022