Hedy’s Highlights of 2016


As 2016 takes its closing breaths, we learn of the passing of yet another icon, Carrie Fisher.  My Facebook feed is full of pleas to keep David Attenborough safe lest we lose yet another national treasure.  We’ve seen terror attacks, ongoing conflict in Syria, the rise of the political far right, Britain vote to leave the EU and, personally most concerning, the election of Donald Trump as next ruler of the free world.  All is not doom and gloom however and as the world ticks over there has been plenty of good news from the world of women in STEM.  I’ve put together my highlights of the year below, covering both personal and industry arenas.

January – For the first time, NASA’s class of astronauts are 50% female

February – Female engineering entrepreneurs featured by CNN 

March – UNSW Graduate Megan Kline wins 2016 WA CME Outstanding Young Woman in Resources award and is profiled by UNSW

April – Whilst on Yvette’s Grand Tour, we both visited the Falkirk Wheel, a connection point between the Forth and Clyde Canal and the Union Canal


Having a wheely good time on Yvette’s Grand Tour!

May – Yvette is awarded the 2016 Young Railway Engineer of the Year from the Railway Technical Society of Australasia


Yvette and Antonia with their awards

June – National Women in Engineering Day is celebrated in the UK on 23rd June, featuring the release of a list of the Top 50 Influential Women in Engineering

July – My favourite mathematician Hannah Fry and Dallas Campbell explore the modern aviation industry in a series produced by the BBC ‘City in the Sky


Hannah Fry not posing next to a plane, but rather a Jacquard loom from her show on Ada Lovelace

August – Whilst on my summer holiday we visited Bletchley Park and found out about the amazing women who operated the Bombe machines to find the daily Enigma settings

September – The Paralympics highlight a number of engineering innovations  A special issue of Sports Engineering highlights technology for Disability Sport


October – BHP Billiton sets new goal for 50% of workforce to be women by 2025

November – Book launch for Rules of the Game, a book that explores the world of engineering, resources and construction, from The Blue Collared Woman


December – Largest all-female expedition to Antartica heads off

What are your highlights of 2016, and what do you have planned for 2017?


Celebrating Gin and Visitors


Here’s something I posted last week for a good friend of mine who was celebrating World Gin Day in proper style, with a Gin Week on her blog!

As an oompa loompa of science I find the world of distilling and brewing quite fascinating.  Basically Chemistry class for adults!  So to celebrate Gin Week and a couple of visitors from home I headed to Edinburgh’s first gin distillery in 150 years Pickering’s, situated in Summerhall in Edinburgh’s south.  I had unfortunately missed out on Juniper Fest over the weekend and had already visited the Edinburgh Gin Distillery, so was keen to learn what made Pickering’s special.


This way to gin!

Pickerings gin is based on an original Bombay recipe dating back to 1947 and kept as a family secret until it resurfaced in 2013 when Matt and Marcus began distilling at Summerhall.  The tour begins at the Royal Dick Bar in Summerhall, also home to one of Edinburgh’s breweries Barney’s Beer, with a G&T to sip throughout.


Great way to start a tour, G&T with a slice of pink grapefruit

From the bar you are taken past the Mens room, then the ladies, through winding corridors and over uneven ground to what used to be dog and cat kennels. They have since been repurposed with some of the kennels used to store raw ingredients, gin and boxes.  But how do they make their gin?

A neutral grain spirit with 96%abv is piped into one of two copper stills on site, one called Emily, the other Getrude after Matt and Marcus’s great-grandmothers.  In the still the 9 botanicals are added and the spirit left to steep.

The 9 botanicals that go in to making this tasty drop are juniper, coriander, cardamon, angelica, fennel, anise, lemon, lime and clove.  The two stills have an ingenious custom-designed bain marie heating system that provides a gentle simmer able to coax out their subtle, soft, highly drinkable flavours.


With their 9 Botanicals

After steeping this bain marie system is used to heat the spirit to vapour.  As the heating begins this vapour is trapped in the ‘onion’ of the still, condenses and travels back down to the heart of either Emily or Gertrude.  This process of vapourising, condensing and travelling back to the spirit can occur up to 16 times before the spirit is warm enough for the vapour to bypass the onion and travel through the swan neck to the neighbouring condenser.

The condenser uses water that is stored in a local underground well to cool the vapour back to a liquid.  Similar to whisky distilling, the potable alcohol the distiller wants to capture has a boiling point of 78.2OC, with the first vapours to boil off being more volatile and known as the ‘heads’. The hedas include chemicals such as acetaldehyde (CH3CHO), acetone ((CH3)2CO) and esters (pretty sure I learnt about those in chemistry back in the day!). Once the desired boiling point is reached the ethanol liquid is called the heart and piped through copper piping to one of three vats.  The heart will be ethanol. The tails are left, containing water, carbohydrates and less volatile alcohols, all undesirable. The tails will consist of 1-propanol (CH3CH2CH2OH), butyl alcohol (C4H10O), amyl (Isobutyl carbinol) and acetic acid (CH3COOH) to name a few.

The copper in the still and piping is very important as it helps produce an even, smooth flavour and impurities are left on the inside of the copper piping thereby keeping the spirit pure without excessive filtration.

Once stored in the vats the distillers will monitor the temperature and density of the spirit, regularly taking temperature and density readings and adding water until the desired alcohol content is arrived at.  Pickering’s Gin has 42%abv, slightly more than the required 37.5%abv to qualify as a London Dry Gin.  It is a particularly high tech process at Pickering’s, adding the water by hand in smaller and smaller quantities, stirring using a oar bought from an outdoor shop and taking individual measurements with thermometer and hydrometer then double checking them in a large book full of tables.

This is a one-shot method, only mixing their end distillate with water to cut it to bottling strength, compared with larger distilleries who use more base spirit to stretch their distillate before cutting with water.

When the desired alcohol content is achieved then it is piped in copper pipes to the room next door where it is bottled by hand.  It is also stoppered and waxed by hand.


If you’ve ever seen a bottle of Pickering’s you’ll know the bottle isn’t square which makes attaching labels by hand consistently rather difficult.  The distillery is housed in part of Summerhall, an old Veterinary Hospital that is now home to many community groups including Edinburgh Hacklab.  This hacklab is a space for people to mess around with technology for fun so Pickering’s asked them to come up with something they could use to attach the labels, as they were worryingly close to their launch date and had a few hundred bottles to label.

The resulting machine is quite something, and is still going well considering it was designed to be used on a few hundred bottles and has now been used on over 60,000.


What a beautiful machine

Once labels are attached, and the stoppers are waxed the bottles are boxed up and stored in the old dog kennels.  Throughout this whole process it s evident that everything is done by hand by a very small team, and it is definitely a labour of love.


Dog kennels being used as an excise store for gin

The original 1947 recipe was altered as they were creating a gin that goes perfectly with tonic, and it seems they have hit the nail on the head.  They also produce a Navy Strength gin, as official partners of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, and have also created a gin using the original 1947 recipe which is a spicier, sweeter and more intense spirit.

Their most recent release has its beginnings in a trip around Scotland to the iconic whisky regions in search of the best casks they could find.  They then age their Original gin in one of five ex-Scotch malt whisky casks, and the result is truly something!

Well that’s all from me today. I hope you feel a little better informed about the process of creating one of my favourite gins. I definitely believe a greater understanding of something leads to a much deeper appreciation of its beauty. So next time you sip that G&T ask yourself what botanicals are in it, how they affect the gin, whether it is a one or two shot distillate, and never forget how much love and care has been put into your handcrafted gin.

If you want some wonderful ways to cook with gin, don’t forget to head to Kitty’s Storecupboard and have a look at all her wonderful Gin Week posts.

Sunshine on Lapland, and Iron Ore


It would seem like Spring has finally made it to Lapland.  The large pile of snow in the hotels courtyard has almost melted, and the nearby hills are starting to look a little naked.  It’s amazing the transformation that has occurred over only two weeks.  The landscape is full of hope – green leaves rapidly unfurling from trees that looked two weeks ago like they would never recover from the long winter, hares can be frequently spotted throughout town, and the moose and reindeer have come down toward the river and are more often seen on the road outside my hotel than cars.  There’s also the 24 hours of daylight, coupled with 5 weeks on the road, that have resulted in me starting to resemble Al Pacino from 2002’s Insomnia.  As an aside, if you haven’t seen insomnia, it’s worth a watch just for Robin Williams.

So, why am I in rural northern Sweden, and where am I exactly anyway?  I am spending three weeks in a place called Gällivare, about 3 hours north-east of Luleä, which I’m sure you’ve never heard of either, unless you read Yvette’s blog last week! When you include nearby Malmberget and Koskullskulle the area has just over 15,000 inhabitants and is the second northernmost urban area in Sweden.  The only urban area further north is Kiruna, an area Yvette was lucky enough to visit recently as well.


Gallivare, in the heart of Swedish Lapland

It is 100 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, and from May till August it never really gets dark.  It’s not all doom and gloom though, today was a balmy 23 degrees, a rare treat before the area becomes ‘mosquito hell’ over the summer months as it is known by the locals.

I am here working for the nearby LKAB Malmberget iron ore mine.  The town is known as the mining capital of Europe, with other nearby mines including LKAB’s Svapavaara and Kiruna Mine’s and Boliden’s Aitik.  LKAB markets itself as ‘a high-tech international minerals group, world leading producer of processed iron ore products for steelmaking, and a growing supplier of mineral products for other industrial sectors’.  They are a major employer in the area and in 2015 produced 24.5MT of iron ore, the majority of which was pellets for steel making.  To put that in perspective, Australian iron ore exports for 2015 were in the region of 750Mt, however Sweden makes up about 90% of the European Union’s steel production so LKAB are a significant European producer.  They produce three main product types: pellets, fines and special products.  Pellets and fines go to steel mills and special products to foundries and the oil industry.  The Geologist who was our guide proudly proclaimed that the pellets produced by Malmberget are the best quality pellets in the world, and they certainly receive a premium for their product.

What also makes LKAB unique is that they are state owned.  Nationalisation of mines became the norm after the world wars, when developed countries were concerned with ensuring self-sufficiency of commodity supply, and developing, often recently independent, nations saw this as the route to economic independence from their colonial oppressors.  However management was often poor, production was never optimal, and nepotism was rife so nationalisation of mines decreased, with privatisation the new norm.  There are still a number of state owned enterprises including Chile’s Codelco, a laeading producer of copper, Morrocco’s OCP, the main producer of phosphate in the world, and Botswana’s diamond producer Debwana currently operating successfully.

LKAB has two underground mines, Kiruna and Malmberget, and one open and two planned open pits in nearby Svappavaara.  The ore is shipped to one of two harbours, Kiruna and Svappavaara products to Narvik harbour and Malmberget products to Luleå.


An overview of LKAB’s operations in Sweden

All sorting, milling and pelletising is completed on site at the mines, and it is the final product that is then railed to ports to be shipped to their mainly European customers.  The diagram below will give you a better idea of their production structure and how vertically integrated it is.  It is certainly an impressive industrial area when you are used to an underground mine and associated concentrator.


The vertically integrated production structure

Before we get to the really interesting stuff, a quick run-down on the geology of the Malmberget deposit.  Malmberget is an Apatite iron ore of Kiruna-Type.  Yep, you read correctly – Kiruna morphology is distinct enough to have its own deposit type named after it.  The area strikes 5 kilometres in a West-East direction, and 2.5 kilometres in the North-South direction and comprises of 30 current and historical magnetite and hematite mines.  The ore itself consists of medium to coarse grained magnetitie and hematite and it is high in apatite.  The host rocks are strongly metamorphosed and deformed vulcanites of felsic to mafic composition.  Vulcanite areas are intruded and surrounded by a later granite-pegmatite succession, which is the probable cause for the high metamorphosis and deformation grade.  So put simply, it was originally a deposit very similar to Kiruna, that then underwent folding and subsequent metamorphism which resulted in much smaller vein-like deposits then is seen in the Kiruna deposit.


On aerial view of the Industrial Area with the underlying deposits

As a result, Malmberget deposit is mined with a combination of transverse and longitudinal Sub-Level Caving.  The Sub-Level caving method is a large scale mass mining method, that is sequenced from the top of the deposit downward, where material is blasted, extracted but not filled so the overlying rock caves to fill in the void created by loading the rock out.


Mining in the area began in the 1600s but not on an industrial scale until the railroad to Lulea harbor was built in 1888.  There are currently 13 orebodies in production, producing on average about 18Mt per annum.  The majority of ore produced is magnetite and mining is divided between the Western and Eastern fields, with the big magnetite orebodies in the Eastern field and the small magnetite and hematite orebodies in the Western field.

As an engineer who has worked in a 5Mtpa underground mine (and I thought that was sizeable), the sheer volume of rock that is moved astounds me every time I visit.  All their production and development statistics are equally staggering however, as in 2014 they completed almost 21km of development, installed 65,000 rock bolts and drilled 794,000 production metres.

Apart from the challenges that come with mining at this scale, the mine is actually underneath the town of Malmberget and the Community Centre had a fascinating model that showed the relationship of the orebodies to the town.

Sarah’s Self Interview


This week it’s my time to answer Yvette’s questions, so you can all get to know the mining engineer in your life a little better.

Where do you work and what do you do there?

I am a Senior Mining Engineer for an Australian company that makes mine planning software, based in their Edinburgh office.  Just in case you’ve not been lucky enough to cross paths with a mining engineer, once the geologists use their magical powers to locate an orebody a mining engineer is then involved from the long term evaluation and mine design through to short term production of the orebody.  At Maptek I dabble in selling software, technical support and consulting projects.

What is your favourite thing about your job?

Though I sometimes miss site work, as our office covers the European, Northern & Western African and Russian regions I am gaining a much greater understanding of different mining methods and the global mining industry, projects that are upcoming and the various players in the industry.

What did you study at uni and where?

I graduated with a Bachelors of Mining Engineering from the University of New South Wales back in 2006. It seems like an awfully long time ago…


Myself and my fellow engineers competing in the University Mining Games. Yep, that’s a thing!

What is your biggest regret?

Not completing my Underground Mine Managers ticket.  At the time it was the best decision as my head and heart just weren’t in it.

Who has inspired you?

My Dad was a geologist in a past life, and family holidays often had a geological bent.  It also meant that Dad’s friends and colleagues were banker, geologists and engineers so I’ve spent time with some inspirational women who have had amazing success in their chosen fields.

What decisions have led you to where you are?

In high school, all I really wanted to do was play with rocks so I studied all the requisite subjects to begin a career in Geology.  Halfway through Year 12 however I thought that given the cyclical nature of mining, a mining engineer could better withstand the busts. Honestly though, I was mostly just excited about large trucks and being able to blow things up.

I was then lucky enough to be offered a position with Xstrata’s graduate program at their geologically interesting George Fisher Mine near Mt Isa.  It was definitely a case of choosing my graduate job for the deposit and mine rather than the company.

What was the greatest moment in your professional life?

I have been given some amazing opportunities throughout my career to date.  From a personal point of view surviving 12 months working underground and then 9 months supervising a crew of 12 to 16 underground workers.  It was really tough as a 24yo female in a very male dominated industry, but I made some long lasting relationships, gained some amazing experience, hit all my safety and production targets, and grew a lot as a person! No awards at the end, but the sense of achievement has been unequalled since.


What is your favourite thing about yourself?

I’m still fascinated, often overly excited, by the world in which we live.  So many things to see and learn about.


Five minutes in New York and I’d already found the Flatiron building

What advice would you give your 16 year old self?

No matter how uncool it is, keep doing the things you love. One day you’ll end up living in Scotland and it will all make sense!!

Where is your favourite place in the world?

The beautiful glacial U shaped valleys of Yosemite, and The Lakes District isn’t far behind.


The Lakes District

What is the hardest decision you have ever had to make?

To quit my job at EHM and travel.  Thankfully I had a bit of a financial security blanket, but it was still really stressful to take that leap.

Why do you need feminism?

All through these questions I’ve just been copying over the top of Antionia’s answers, and her answer to this question is spot on so I’m going to be cheeky and not change a thing!  To quote Antonia “I need feminism because having children shouldn’t end my career and not having children shouldn’t make me less of a woman. I wish Women in Leadership conferences didn’t require a parenting tips segment.”

What is at the top of your bucket list?

Living in Scotland was at the top for a long time, as was taking a gap year to travel, but now they’re both ticked off I need to put a bit more thought into it!  I’ve done the solo travel thing, so now I would most like to take my boyfriend to the States and Canada, hire a car and just drive!  It would allow us both time to get back in to photography, and the Scottish music and dance scene is bigger than you think so we’d always have something to do.


Showing Pete around Sydney

What would be the most effective items in your Eden Jar

The most rewarding items would be of a musical or dance bent, along the lines of “Tickets to a gig”, “A new CD” or “A fiddle lesson from one of the many amazing muso’s in Scotland”.  But even “A new box of tea” or “High tea with a good friend” would put a very large smile on my face and bring balance back to the force!

Where are you going from here?

I have recently started studying an MBA in International Resource Management, so ideally coupled with my practical experience I would like to evaluate projects for a medium sized mining company in a head office somewhere.

Is there anything else you’d like to know about me? Feel free to ask in the Comments section below.

Are you proposing today?



I’m proposing that my boyfriend and I complete 5 Munro’s over the next 12 months.  And that we drink slightly less beer, and finally, officially, move in together.  But I’m definitely not popping the question, ‘that’ question.

Today is February 29, the only day in four years women are traditionally allowed to get down on one knee and propose spending the rest of your life together with the one we love.  But these days, during our fight toward proper gender equality, is this tradition valid anymore?

It dates back to the mid fifth century where Saint Brigid of Kildare, who was sick of waiting, beseeched Saint Patrick for a day when women could propose marriage to longtime suitors.  She could almost be called an early feminist, but why did she only ask for one day in every 1461?

If we want true equality, then both men and women should be able to bring up matters like these with no reproof, and discuss them in that often elusive “safe space”.  Equality is a two way street.   While marriage no longer has as many of its advantages, we should empower women, and men, to discuss marriage in an open and honest manner, before signing up for a lifelong commitment.

The Woman and The Car: A Journey to CEO



Earlier in the week we looked into the amazing contribution to the safety of the automobile made by three ladies, who were also actresses, inventors, authors, real estate developers, the list goes on!  Today we follow this story further, and investigate the growing contribution of females in this industry.

1921 – Dorothée Pullinger: The woman who built a car for women

We have mentioned Dorothée before on our Facebook page, but no list would be complete without her so we’re including her just in case you missed her the first time!  Starting work as a draughtswoman at a car manufacturer  based in Scotland Dorothée was given an opportunity during World War One and put in charge of female munitions works in Cumbria where she was eventually responsible for 7,000 workers.

After the war she moved back to Scotland and became manager of Galloway Motors at its factory near Kirkcudbright.  Though originally built to manufacture aeroplane parts in the war, as an automobile factory Dorothy was able to keep the business open and provide employment to local women.  Galloway Cars seemed like quite the place to work, adopting the colours of the suffragettes, providing two tennis courts on the roof for employees and it was host to an engineering college for women.  Whilst working for Galloway, Dorothée managed the production of the Galloway Car, “a car built by ladies, for those of their own sex”.  In a nod to Dorothy Levitt I’m sure, the Galloway was one of the first automobiles to introduce a rear view mirror as standard.  Unfortunately, by the end of the 20s these cars were no longer produced as times were tough for independent car makers.


Though she became a founding member of the Woman’s Engineering Society, Dorothée left the car manufacturing business as she eventually became fed up with people telling her she was taking a mans job.  After this she opened a laundry business and served her country during the Second World War before moving to Guernsey where she passed away in 1986.

Only 4,000 Galloway Cars were ever made but if you ever find yourself in Glasgow then get yourself along to the Riverside Museum where you can find the only publicly displayed model in the UK.

1943 – Helene Rother automotive designer (interior)

Though not an engineer, Helene Rother is an important part of the contribution of women to the automotive engineer as the first female automotive designer in Detroit, joining General Motors in 1943.  Born in Leipzig, Germany, Helene spent her early life studying art, designing jewellery and hat pins and fleeing Nazi-occupied France.  Helene and her daughter found safety in New York City via northern Africa, where Rother’s first job was as an illustrator for Marvel Comics.

A year later she joined the interior styling staff of General Motors in Detroit, responsible for upholstery colours and fabrics, lighting, door hardware and seat construction.  The significance of her position was downplayed at the time but she was earning three times the average wage of a man in Detroit at that time.  As the Automotive Hall of Fame puts it “She was one of the few women to succeed in a man’s job during an era when the vast majority of women couldn’t even see a glass ceiling-it was hidden behind steel doors”.


Her experience at GM enabled her to establish her own design studio specialising in designs for automotive interiors, furniture and stained glass windows.  Not one to shirk her CPD responsibilities, she regularly participated in Society of Automotive Engineers conferences and published a technical paper asking “Are we doing a good job in our car interiors?”.  Her work advocating women in the industry was recognised in The SAE Journal in 1949, she was the first woman to address the SAE in Detroit and thanks to her work styling their interiors Nash Motors was awarded the Jackson Medal, one of America’s most sought after awards.

Her contribution to automotive design was important and is often overlooked, and though she was not the first woman to work in styling “she was an early pioneer and one of the best”.

2015 – Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors

The final lady of note is Mary Barra, who after the retirement of Dan Akerson from General Motors became the first female CEO of a major automobile company (GM).  Mary studied electrical engineering at General Motors Institute, followed by an MBA at Stanford in 1990.  A great example of hard work paying off, she started working at GM at the age of 18 as a co-op student and held various engineering and administrative positions eventually working her way to Vice President of Global Manufacturing Engineering in 2008.  In 2011 she was named Executive Vice President of Global Product Development, with responsibilities including design, global purchasing and supply chain.


She has survived a harrowing first couple of years, facing revelations that faulty ignition switches contributed to at least 74 deaths and 126 injuries, million car recalls and lower returns to shareholders than expected.  However under Barra GM is also becoming more financially disciplined, as she is willing to make tough decisions like pulling out of countries.  Named Fortune’s Most Powerful Woman in 2015, we shall definitely be keeping an eye on her work at GM.

We hope that you’ve enjoyed learning about these inspiring women as much as I have.  Do you think we may have missed someone?  Has this made you think twice about a career in the automotive industry?  Don’t hesitate to comment below and let us know!