Gemma Clarke, 24 is a structural engineer working on buildings with consultancy Faber Maunsell. She graduated with a BEng in structural engineering from Bath University. Gemma is currently in the Antarctic, working on a research base for the British Antarctic Survey.
"There are so many opportunities on offer in this sector but if someone had told me that in my first year I’d be spending three months travelling to the Antarctic and learning about snow accumulation and spin drift, I wouldn’t have believed them," says Gemma. But that’s the situation she has found herself in working for Faber Maunsell after the consultancy won the contract to build a new research base for the British Antarctic Survey. Gemma is part of the team working on the project which is known as Halley VI. "It’s a fascinating project as snow cover increases by a metre and a half each year in the Antarctic. They have to build a new station each year. This time, we’re working on a jacking system to ensure it remains above the snowfall," she explains. "Designing something in the Antarctic is unique and we’ve had lot to learn. There is plenty of back-up but the trick is to be able to turn that knowledge to practical solutions."
On her arrival in the Antarctic, she will see the old station Halley V. It’s a three-month trip as it will take her about a month to travel there, flying to Uruguay and then picking up a boat. Once she’s there, she will spend about a month going over the old station and helping with any structural repairs while the new one is designed and built.
She believes that her practical experience helped her secure the job, having gained a great deal of practical experience on her course and undertaken a few work placements. "During the interview I emphasised my problem-solving skills as well as my people skills, as you need to be a good communicator in this industry."
She says support has been excellent, "but there is no doubt that you are expected to contribute from the start".