A University of Strathclyde student is among the winners of a new bursary offered by the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) and Amazon.

Finlay Harris, who is studying in Strathclyde’s Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, is one of 12 inaugural recipients of the Amazon Future Engineer bursaries.

The awards, worth £5,000 a year for up to four years, have been granted to women students from low-income households progressing from A Level, Scottish Highers or technical education courses to university education in the 2021/22 academic year.

The awardees will be offered mentoring from Amazon leaders for a minimum of six months to support them at a formative stage in their professional career. The mentors will help students overcome roadblocks while providing invaluable guidance and career advice. Awardees will also be invited to networking and training events at Amazon and the Royal Academy of Engineering and have access to a community forum providing a peer-to-peer network.

Finlay’s course combines her two favourite subjects, physics and computer science. She developed a passion for electronics when building gadgets with her grandfather in his garden shed, affectionally dubbed ‘The Electronics Hub’. Her father works in the solar energy industry, which also inspired a love for renewable energy.

Finlay said: “At college I studied computer science, maths and physics. I always loved physics, it just clicked for me, but as I got older I learned to love maths too.

“I would love to work in renewable energy, it’s so important for the future. Right now, my plan is to go into the research side of renewable energy through a master’s and maybe a PhD.” 

Finlay found out about the Amazon Future Engineer Bursary programme after her computer science teacher put her forward. She said: “I received the email while I was staying with my friend in Liverpool. I rang my mum and she was running around the house screaming, all I could hear were my dogs barking.”

In her course at Strathclyde, Finlay is enjoying the blend of practical, hands-on work alongside theory and opportunities to network. She is also excited to attend annual meetings with RAeng, where she will meet and learn from industry leaders.

Finlay said: “I don’t personally know anybody who has studied or worked in the areas I’m most interested in, so networking events made available through the bursary programme can help to open doors in the future.”

Women are still significantly underrepresented in engineering and technology in higher education. UCAS data on university application and acceptance figures for the 2020 cycle highlighted that women represent just 16% and 18% of accepted applications to computing and engineering degrees respectively. At the current rate of progress, parity of women in engineering degrees will not be achieved until 2085.

Dr Rhys Morgan, Director of Education at RAEng, said: “I am absolutely delighted that, following an extremely competitive process, we have been able to offer these awards to 12 inspirational young women who have all demonstrated a drive and passion for computing and engineering, as well an understanding of how innovation and creativity in their chosen fields can help solve some of the world’s greatest challenges.

“They are terrific examples of the talent that exists in schools and colleges across the UK, and we will continue to support and encourage them, and others like them, to enter careers in engineering, computing and technology. Our profession and the communities we serve will be the beneficiaries.”

Lauren Kisser, Director at Amazon’s Development Centre in Cambridge: “We welcome these twelve fantastic students onto our new Amazon Future Engineer bursary scheme, which will help more women become the innovation leaders of the UK. More needs to be done to encourage women to enter these fields and break down the barriers which some students face. “