Martha Liley

1964

Head of research at the School of Business and Engineering Vaud (HEIG-VD), Yverdon-les-Bains

"In other countries, there are a lot of female engineers and scientists. But here, women get the message on so many levels and from so many places that science and engineering are not for them."

My career path

I’m head of applied R & D at HEIG-VD, so I promote, encourage and oversee applied R & D and innovation at the school. My job is extremely varied. Not only do I help teaching and research staff to get funding and to develop their projects through training, information sessions and coaching, but I also work with management and other services to ensure that the school is properly set up for research and development. I also oversee the contractual and legal aspects of R & D, and represent the school in its dealings with the HES-SO authorities, the cantonal authorities, and outside partners such as Innovaud and Y-Parc. So it’s really the perfect job for someone who gets bored easily. I’m originally from the UK, but I’ve been living in Switzerland for many years and now I’m a Swiss citizen. I’m lucky to have had a career that has taken me to various countries, including the UK, Germany and Switzerland, and allowed me to work in different ways, like in the lab, running major projects and managing a team of engineers. My career has also made it possible for me to meet some really motivated people who taught me about different ways of approaching things.

My passion. I love learning and understanding things and finding new ways of viewing them. I like communicating and finding solutions for all types of problems, and helping people to achieve their goals. I’m always trying to make things better, doing what I can to give professors and researchers what they need and encouraging them to succeed in research and development.

My career path. I obtained a PhD in physics from Cambridge University. While I was doing my thesis, one of the postdocs helped me to find a position as a postdoc in Germany. Towards the end of my postdoc, I spent a few months at EPFL – it was the same person who helped me do that. And I ended up staying in Switzerland and in R & D. I’ve always felt supported by most of the people around me – my family, my friends and my colleagues. I can’t imagine working in an environment where people don’t have each other’s backs.

A downside or obstacle ? I think too much. I haven’t really come across any obstacles myself, but the ones that I’ve seen other women face are very cultural. In other countries, there are a lot of female engineers and scientists. But here, women get the message on so many levels and from so many places that science and engineering are not for them.

I’m not really a proud person. I’m happy that I’ve made a lot of personal progress in recent years. And I think I’ve made some scientific contributions in the area of surface chemistry and 2D chemistry.

The Proust Questionnaire

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Au-delà de votre profession

La lecture, la nature, la randonnée, le ski de fond, un peu de montagne et de voile.

Des personnes qui vous inspirent

Je suis très embêtée car je ne trouve pas de femmes qui m’inspirent autant que des hommes comme Barack Obama, Martin Luther King, Thich Nhat Hanh, Churchill… Mais citons Malala Yousafzai, Michelle Obama et des scientifiques non-reconnues comme Caroline Herschel, Ada Lovelace et Rosalind Franklin.

Un livre & un film

How to Sit (Thich Nhat Hanh) et La Guerre des étoiles (George Lucas) à 14 ans, et plus récemment Billy Elliot (Stephen Daldry).

Un modèle

Le professeur Wolfgang Knoll, quelqu’un de très généreux, qui savait s’entourer de collaborateurs et collaboratrices exceptionnel-le-s et les motiver.

Un objet

Un cerf-volant ? Une empreinte de pieds dans le sable ?

Une couleur

Le bleu

Un rêve

Faire des recherches dans des régions polaires.