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Laura Hannigan

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Laura Hannigan discusses how she interacts with the Institution and co-founding her own structural engineering practice.

"I believe you can instigate large changes by changing your own world and those around you in any small way"
Laura Hannigan

What inspired you to become a structural engineer?

I wanted a career where I could apply a love of mathematics, have a definitive career option at the end, but also one which offered flexibility if I wanted (as engineers are in demand in other professions too). 

Along the way I was inspired more by individuals than projects, from family and school friends (and school bullies) to my maths teacher, Aiden Seery, and people like Aine Brazil, David Illingworth, and friends at work. 

It constantly reminds me of the positive impact you can have on someone’s life. I always want to bring people with me, and believe you can instigate large changes by changing your own world and those around you in any small way.

What are the greatest achievements in your career?

Honestly, I do not look back much, or probably enough, and hope my greatest achievements are still yet to come. 

However, I am grateful for many opportunities including working with Thornton Tomasetti during my internship, completing a part-time Masters at Cambridge University whilst working full-time, and having the opportunity to work on Google’s new headquarters at AKTII. 

Probably the greatest achievement though is co-founding my own practice which I’m extremely proud of. I have found my voice within the profession and am looking forward to putting it to use.

How would you define structural engineering?

Structural engineering creates the structures where we live, work, play and entertain in and ensures they are safe, and hopefully beautiful spaces. 

You probably will not always hear about a structural engineer if they have done their job right, but you will certainly hear about it if they have not. 

It might sound cliche but we really are problem solvers: How should you analyse a column in a particular framing layout? What is the most appropriate material for the building?  How will you layout the foundations to avoid a tunnel below? Almost every project presents unique problems to be solved.

Who should become a structural engineer?

People who enjoy creating and problem solving and have an aptitude for maths. Being able to work with others is also great because a whole team is needed to deliver a building project. 

Personally, I liked creating spaces, so originally planned on studying architecture, but I realised I couldn’t forgoe my love of maths. 

Thankfully I came across structural engineering with architecture which was then an obvious choice for me – it excluded elements of civil engineering I was not interested in (such as infrastructure) but included architecture modules.

How do you interact with the Institution?

I really enjoy IStructE events and am a regular visitor! It is a great way to meet other engineers, and hear about what they and the industry are up to. 

I was at the Digital Conference recently and that was a great example of engineers coming together to brainstorm over common challenges in the industry. The Institution has a very important role to play in bringing these events together and breaking down boundaries. 

The Structural Engineer has a good mix of information and articles, particularly on specific projects as it’s technical insight on projects you wouldn’t be able to find elsewhere. Who doesn’t love finding out how something works or is put together! 

The Library is also a great resource and my colleagues in particular are there almost every other week. Whilst digital is great, I haven’t quite managed to lose the love of picking up a book.  


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