Updated: Aug 28, 2021
Sine Leergaard Wiggers is an Associate Professor at the Southern University of Denmark (SDU). She holds a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU).
Sine’s STEM journey began with her interest in mathematics at school. She considers herself quite lucky to have relatives who are mechanical engineer who always inspired her, and their work sparked an interest in Sine to work within the field. She also mentions that she once met with a professor from the USA who later on became a mentor for her. With the guidance of her mentor, she was given the needed guidance and support to pursue and stay in the field of mechanical engineering. Sine also shared a funny story, where she was once told by a guy that girls do not pursue mechanical engineering, as it is not a field for girls. That comment left a huge mark on Sine and instead of pulling her down, it ended up giving her more determination to excel.
When it came to choosing a career, Sine chose mechanical engineering. She holds a B.Sc., M.Sc. and a PhD in mechanical engineering from the Technical University of Denmark where she specialised in solid state mechanics. Sine finished her PhD in 2005 and during her PhD, she focused on computer simulations and analysis of chain vibrations, with a focus on chain drive in marine diesel engines. The main focus area was on the methods within multibody dynamics in 2D as well as methods within contact modelling. After the completion of her PhD, she worked as a consultant for 6 months at MAN B&W Diesel A/S where she got to further develop and implement her research work. Till 2008, Sine worked as a consultant within structural vibrations and strength analysis of ships at the consulting company Lloyd's Register. In 2008, she then decided to work as an Associate Professor at the Southern University of Denmark and has been working there ever since.
Sine describes the field of mechanical engineering to be quite a broad field with many options and job opportunities. A degree in mechanical engineering allows one to work with small scale objects like optimisation and design of nano systems. On a bigger scale, one can get the opportunity to work with design of drop test in the mobile phones industry, or with design and development of toys, or on a even larger scale e.g., windmills and ships. With such a degree, the sky is both literally and figuratively not the limit, and I mean it, as such a degree allows one to work on systems on earth and outer space. Sine has worked with chain drives in engines for ships with design of ships with regards to e.g., vibrations and now works within teaching. In short, “Mechanical engineers work with innovative ideas and turn them into sustainable, safe and smart solutions for society.”
STEM to Sine means, “modelling/formulating, understanding, analysing and improving the things that surround us.” So far Sine considers her life in STEM to be quite easy in regard to the working environment. Even though, she is surrounded by many of the opposite gender, she enjoys working in a male-dominated world. This stems from the fact that she loves what she does, and no barriers stop her from living her dream as a mechanical engineer. But to make life easier for the other females in STEM, Sine would love to see more possibilities regarding maternity leave. At university maternity leave is no problem, but this is not always the case elsewhere especially in minor engineering consultancy companies.
To encourage the next generation of girls to join STEM Sine believes that organisations like NWiSTEM is an important step in the right direction. Speaking from personal experience, Sine mentions that once in a high school guide, she was told that engineering is not the field for Sine. Luckily, Sine was strong enough to go against what the world told her and did not let others bring her down, but many dreams get shattered due to those around us and that is where more female representation is needed.
Lastly, here are Sine’s closing words of encouragement for young girls who want to join a STEM field:
“If you like math, physics and are interested in improving the world - go for it.”
You can contact Sine Leergaard Wiggers on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/sine-leergaard-wiggers-163ab9
I thank Sine Leergaard Wiggers for taking part in this project and answering all the questions in a very informative manner. I hope, your experience and STEM story will inspire a young girl to join a STEM field and excel just like you have.