The SS Great Britain, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, is a Victorian engineering masterpiece. Caring for the historic ship as one of the UK’s top museums today utilises modern-day engineering to conserve the hull and keep her safe for visitors. Ship’s Conservation Engineer Nicola Grahamslaw, who oversees the conservation effort, has been deservedly named the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ (IMechE) Young Member Visionary for 2019.
The prestigious award is presented to an engineer who demonstrates all-round excellence both in engineering and in volunteering, and the judges were impressed by Nicola’s story. An IMechE spokesperson said: “The Young Member Visionary award aims to recognise the Institution’s best young members who are promoting engineering. Through her professional involvement in multi-disciplinary work and her volunteering in a variety of environments, Nicola exemplifies what the prize is all about. She is a deserving winner of the Young Member Visionary award and a fantastic ambassador for the engineering profession.”
Nicola is a Chartered Mechanical Engineer and has held the position of Ship’s Conservation Engineer at the SS Great Britain Trust for just over a year. In that time, she has made a significant impact on the conservation and educational work of the Trust.
Nicola’s role, newly created in 2018, is to develop future conservation strategy for the ship and museum collection, while assessing and optimising the current systems for both performance and carbon footprint reduction. The only engineer in the organisation, Nicola has worked with colleagues across the Trust to secure funding for new instrumentation by producing analysis to demonstrate how better quality data could reduce the carbon footprint of the systems, and is in the process of procuring this upgrade.
Nicola’s impact on the wider heritage conservation sector has also been notable, having been invited by the Institute of Conservation to speak at conferences and as a guest lecturer about the application of Engineering principles and techniques to address conservation challenges. This work forms part of an initiative Nicola is launching to empower heritage organisations to reduce their carbon footprint, through sharing engineering knowledge.
Besides her job, Nicola has also dedicated time to a variety of volunteering roles. She is a STEM ambassador, helping to run STEM events aimed at students and the public. She also works as a mentor with early career engineers through the IMechE’s independent mentor scheme and prior to joining the Trust spent a year in a STEM teaching role, educating children aged seven to 12 about coding and digital technology.
“I am proud to call myself an engineer and find it really rewarding to be an ambassador for the profession. I’m very grateful to all of those who have supported me in my career so far and hope I can continue to pay that support forward inspiring and developing the next generation of engineers.”