STEMM Profile: Nicky Eshtiaghi | Associate Professor in Engineering | RMIT University | Melbourne | VIC

“Never give up, make the most of what you’ve got and tough it out when facing difficulties”

Dr Nicky Eshtiaghi is an Associate Professor in the Chemical Engineering discipline at RMIT University. She is the leader of the Sludge Rheology group and has published more than 100 peer-reviewed papers since 2010 with an h-index of 20 and a total of 1500 citations. Nicky investigates the flow behaviour of solid residue (sludge) of wastewater treatment plants with the aim of optimising energy efficiency of process units in the sludge treatment lines. She is the recipient of several prestigious awards including the 2015 Engineers Australia’s Victorian Professional Engineer of the Year in recognition of her engineering competence, leadership skills, creativity, innovation and conspicuous service to industry, the profession and society. She also received the 2017 Australian Award for University Teaching (AAUT) for outstanding contribution to students learning.

Nicky earned first class honours in her Bachelor of Chemical Engineering. She completed her Masters degrees and worked for six years in industry before commencing a PhD at Monash University. She received her PhD degree in 2010 and started her academic life at the same year at RMIT University as a lecturer.

Who and/or what inspires you to achieve?

The opportunity that I have in everyday life to make a difference in people’s lives – through my teaching in students’ lives and through my research in the world-wide community- inspires me to do my best. Doing my best in any responsibility I undertook, has resulted in great achievements.

What has been the biggest barrier you have faced in your career and how did you overcome it?

Generally speaking to be successful in Engineering, which is a male-dominated profession, is difficult while there is conscious or unconscious bias toward women. Being born in a country that the social structures also discriminate against women, I chose to tough it out instead of going out.

What would you say is your most valuable personal attribute that has helped you succeed?

Perseverance, and a ‘never give up’ attitude has helped me make the most of what I have. I am also highly organised, and efficiently manage my time with the aim of working smarter, rather than harder. I believe the best is yet to come and everything happens for a good reason, even if it is a failure.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to women just starting their careers in science?

Find a good mentor who is genuinely interested in your work and also in mentorship. A good mentor will help you to identify the career path that best fits your values and aspirations, and to help you to succeed. Never take it for granted if you are lucky enough to have someone.

What is the biggest challenge to all women pursuing a career in science and how they can overcome that?

Work-life balance. Balance isn’t about building a wall between personal and professional lives, but finding ways to integrate them by: creating a daily routine, establishing a cut off time to be with family, making time for yourself to just relax, and slowing down time to time to assess where you are.

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