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Dr Priti Parikh

Dr Priti Parikh

Associate professor at UCL and head of the Engineering for International Development Centre

Expertise

Water, Environmental Management

Location

United Kingdom
Career highlights

Became a fellow of ICE (2019) and elected ICE Council member (2021)

Recognised as one of the 100 most influential academics in government by Apolitical

Awarded the prestigious Bboxx/Royal Academy of Engineering Senior Research Fellowship

A day in my life

Not a single day is typical.

Often, I am working on research projects with colleagues from other disciplines reviewing evidence on the added value of infrastructure.

Other days I'm teaching students or running workshops with academic and non-academic partners.

Sometimes I have a quiet day when I can read papers and work on writing academic publications. But those days are rare.

I'm also currently co-leading development of a new four-year integrated undergraduate programme in Construction Engineering Management. This programme is geared towards creating future leaders in engineering and construction sectors that will boost effective project delivery.

Civil engineering can lead to improvements in human settlements and have a knock-on impact on health, education, housing and incomes.

Who inspired you to become a civil engineer?

My father, who's a brilliant structural and civil engineer.

On one hand, he worked on innovative structures for large-span buildings in India, and on the other, he developed effective networked water and supply solutions for slums.

His work got me excited about civil engineering and here I am 25 years later working in the same field.

I would recommend a career in civil engineering because …

It is so rewarding. I have seen how infrastructure can transform living conditions in slums and villages around the world.

Civil engineering can lead to improvements in human settlements and have a knock-on impact on health, education, housing and incomes.

What’s the most complex thing you’ve made out of Lego? How long did it take you?

See the picture of Tower Bridge, Big Ben and London Eye – the engineering marvels of London. I made this over the Christmas break which was great fun.

Lego versions of Tower Bridge, Big Ben and the London Eye
Lego versions of Tower Bridge, Big Ben and the London Eye.

Complete this phrase: I’m a civil engineer, but I’m also …

An amateur stand-up comedian, Wordle fan and jigsaw puzzle enthusiast.

What about being a civil engineer gets you out of bed each morning?

The fact that I can make a difference as an individual and can motivate my students and researchers to do the same.

What’s one great thing that you love about civil engineering that you didn’t know until you started working in the industry?

That the work is so diverse and impactful.

Civil engineers are influential in design and delivery of buildings, infrastructure, transportation – all elements without which our cities would not exist in their current form.

Name one civil engineering myth you’d like to bust.

The one myth I would like to bust is that civil engineers and hence the profession are boring.

Some of the most interesting individuals that I have met are civil engineers.

Another myth is that engineers cannot work with social scientists – we can work with experts from other disciplines and be quite good at it!

What are you doing to help fight against climate change?

Communities need access to basic infrastructure services to improve their quality of life and build resilience.

It is all well and good talking about climate change but if a household does not have access to water and electricity, they will not be able to engage and respond.

My centre explores climate resilient infrastructure solutions with a focus on gender inclusive solutions as women bear the burden of poor infrastructure and climate change in marginalised communities.

Any hobbies?

I love working on jigsaw puzzles – it enables me to look at the big picture and then bring in details to formulate the vision. A skill that I find useful in my day-to-day life.

Dr Parikh's career journey

I studied structural engineering and urban planning in India.

After working in the industry for 12 years in India and the UK on infrastructure planning projects, I pursued a doctorate at University of Cambridge.

During my PhD I examined the impacts of infrastructure in slums in India and townships in South Africa.

The doctorate made me realise that in addition to project delivery, I was interested in research.

I have now been in academia for 12 years researching infrastructure solutions in resource-challenged settings.

My industry experience has inspired me to always consider the application of research to real world challenges and the need to actively engage with industry and policy makers to influence engineering thinking.

Major projects

At UCL, I head the Engineering for International Development (EFID) Research Centre in the Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction.

EFID researches infrastructure (water, sanitation and energy) solutions for resource-challenged settings globally.

Our vision is that every person on this planet should have access to affordable, appropriate and inclusive infrastructure.

We provide evidence through research to policy makers and practitioners to inform decision making on infrastructure, taking into consideration the UN Sustainable Development Goals and climate change.

Learn about our projects