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SawTeen See FIStructE

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SawTeen See is Managing Director of Robert Bird Group, USA, based in New York. During her career she has led the structural design of the Shanghai World Financial Center (492m), the Lotte World Tower in Seoul (555m) and the Merdeka 118 (644m) in Kuala Lumpur - as well as various museum, library, and bridge projects.

Here she explains the contribution of structural engineers and what she hopes to achieve as a Fellow of IStructE.

"I hope to set an example to other young women engineers."
SawTeen See

What inspired you to become a structural engineer? 

I’ve always wanted to design buildings since I was young. They looked impressive and I wanted to be able to design and to be able to touch them. I started out in architecture but then switched to structural engineering as I loved math and physics. I’ve been a structural engineer since I graduated with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from Cornell University.

How would you define structural engineering?

Some people would say that the structural engineer is the person who makes the building stand up, but we do a whole lot more than that.

The structural engineer designs the skeleton or framework of a building to safely withstand forces from gravity, wind, earthquakes, temperature changes and blasts. We do this economically, with constructability, robustness, and safety built into the design. The structure should be good looking as well.

Without structural engineering, the built world as we know it would not exist. The structural engineer designs all the buildings, bridges, and other infrastructure that we use every day; from our homes, to our roads and bridges, to our offices, museums, hospitals, schools, airports etc.

Who should become a structural engineer? 

Traditionally there have been more men than women in structural engineering. This should be changed. There is no reason why women should not be structural engineers. The sort of people who would be good structural engineers are those who have a good understanding of how structures behave, who love to create, and want to design beautiful buildings.

What does it mean to be a Fellow of the Institution? 

Fellowship of the Institution is a great honour, particularly for me as a woman engineer and as a non-UK resident.

I hope to set an example to other young women engineers; that it is possible for women engineers to excel and to be recognised for their achievements.

How do you interact with the Institution? 

I browse through The Structural Engineer to keep current with issues pertaining to structural engineering.


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