Inspirational academic crowned Northern Champion
An inspirational lecturer from the University of Sheffield, who has transformed people's lives with her engineering expertise, has been crowned a Northern Champion by the Institute for Public Policy Research North (IPPR).
Elena Rodriguez-Falcon, from the University's Department of Mechanical Engineering, has been recognised for her innovative teaching methods which encourage and inspire her students to change the world we live in.
Elena is the Director of Enterprise Education, Senior Teacher in Mechanical Engineering, as well as the Faculty Director of Women in Engineering at the University. She moved to the city from her native Mexico in 1999, to take an MBA Industrial Management at Sheffield Hallam University.
After completing her MBA, Elena joined the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Sheffield in 2001. She has developed degrees that embed entrepreneurial skills into the syllabus, enabling engineering students to apply their technical and business skills to help make a real difference.
Her passion and enthusiasm for engineering challenges students to make people's lives easier – resulting in many groundbreaking inventions such as a specially adapted mixing bowl with a sealed lid, which made baking possible for a young boy with cerebral palsy, for the first time.
Other pioneering innovations include writing aids for people with dexterity problems to walking frames for children with brittle bones.
Elena said: "I am deeply honoured and grateful to the IPPR North for having named me as one of the Northern Champions. When the job you do is also your professional dream, it is not difficult to do it with passion and conviction.
"It is incredibly rewarding to see that the seed of enterprise-thinking planted in your student's results in wonderful, life changing engineering solutions such as the walking frame for children with brittle bones – which is now being used across the country."
Elena is one of 12 champions who were shortlisted from more than 100 promising figures in the North of England from the world of sport, politics, drama, business and education. The finalists were selected by a three-person judging panel, representing a broad spectrum of the northern community. They were Sarah Dunwell, CEO of CREATE based in Yorkshire, Margaret Fay, Executive Chairman of One North East and former Managing Director of Tyne Tees Television, and Ed Cox, Director of IPPR.
Elena's popular teaching techniques have already been recognised with numerous awards from the Higher Education Academy, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the National Council of Graduate Entrepreneurship amongst others.
Not only does she encourage innovation but she also helps students at the University of Sheffield to understand that they can only flourish when recognising their ties and networks with others. Over the years Elena has helped to raise the profile of women in her discipline and has become a champion of entrepreneurial education and social responsibility.
She added: "As a female engineer I also feel a great deal of responsibility to raise awareness of my discipline. The grand challenges of the world require great engineers who are concerned about making a difference, who want to improve lives and who dream of inheriting a better world to future generations.
"It is a fact that female engineers do this exceptionally well, but not enough women are studying engineering. The world urgently needs many more exceptional engineers so I hope my nomination as a Northern Champion allows me to encourage more young women and men to study engineering and change the world."
Professor Mike Hounslow, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Engineering at the University, and himself an engineer, said: “Elena really is a champion: for engineering, for enterprise and for women. She deserves this recognition for the difference she makes everyday to people’s lives; we are lucky to have someone of her talent working with us.”
IPPR North is IPPR’s dedicated think tank for the North of England. With bases in Newcastle and Manchester, IPPR North’s research, together with our stimulating and varied events programme, seeks to produce innovative policy ideas for fair, democratic and sustainable communities across the North of England.
The Faculty of Engineering
The Faculty of Engineering at the University of Sheffield - the 2011 Times Higher Education’s University of the Year - is one of the largest in the UK. Its seven departments include over 4,000 students and 900 staff and have research-related income worth more than £50M per annum from government, industry and charity sources. The 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) confirmed that two thirds of the research carried out was either Internationally Excellent or Internationally Leading.
The Faculty of Engineering has a long tradition of working with industry including Rolls-Royce, Network Rail and Siemens. Its industrial successes are exemplified by the award-winning Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and the new £25 million Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (NAMRC).
The Faculty of Engineering is set to ensure students continue to benefit from world-class labs and teaching space through the provision of the University's new Engineering Graduate School. This brand new building, which will become the centre of the faculty´s postgraduate research and postgraduate teaching activities, will be sited on the corner of Broad Lane and Newcastle Street. It will form the first stage in a 15 year plan to improve and extend the existing estate in a bid to provide students with the best possible facilities while improving their student experience.
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