In this instalment of ‘Why I became an Engineer’, Dr Cristina Paduano outlines her career history to date and provides recommendations for engineers who will be submitting their Chartered Engineer application in advance of the July 31 deadline.

In 2019, Dr Paduano, senior CFD modelling specialist at B-Fluid, was presented with the Arup sponsored Chartered Engineer of the Year Award at the Engineers Ireland Excellence Awards, held in association with ESB. 

Why did you decide to become an engineer?

I knew since I was six years old that I wanted to become an aerospace engineer. The idea of building machines that can move in the air and in space fascinated me even though I did not exactly know what the profession was about. During my childhood looking outside of our own planet and the use of the laws of mathematics and physics to create something pragmatical was my interest and passion.

When I was 12 years old, I found the address of one aerospace engineer that used to work in NASA. I was only 12, but I took the courage to write a letter expressing my desire to become an aerospace engineer and to learn what school I needed to attend to become one – a few days later I was incredibly surprised that he answered.

Aerospace engineer Dr Cristina Paduano was presented with Engineers Ireland’s Chartered Engineer of the Year Award having won the prestigious Arup sponsored category award at the Engineers Ireland Excellence Awards, held in association with ESB, in November 2019. 

He sent me a lot of information and material about an Italian space mission that was taking place that year, the Tethered Satellite System with the scientist and astronaut Franco Malerba, and he instructed me how to become an aerospace engineer. I still have this letter after almost 30 years.

From the letter to my PhD in aeroacoustics, I followed the instructions he gave me. I attended scientific school and I applied for the Master of Science of Aerospace Engineering programme at the Polytechnic of Milan in Italy. I had faith and trust that, despite the difficulties of the hard studies, that was the choice and the road I wanted to pursue.

Elaborate on your engineering background, qualifications and work experience to date?

I am a CFD (computational fluid dynamics) modelling specialist. My interest in the field of numerical modelling started during my master’s degree in aerospace engineering.

Numerical modelling looks to replicate analysis usually done in a test laboratory wind tunnel into a computer program that analyses it virtually by way of mathematical representation. The objective of my flow analysis has been to provide innovative and optimised engineering solutions to various aspects of different designs that involve the prediction of heat transfer and fluid /aerodynamics phenomena.

In 2005, after my master’s degree, I started to work as a CFD modelling specialist in a company which provided a Jet Impulse Fans System and various mechanical and natural ventilation systems in Ireland.

In 2011, I started a PhD at the Department of Fluids, Acoustics and Vibration within the School of Mechanical Engineering at Trinity College Dublin to improve my understanding of certain phenomena of interaction between different fluid fields. The topic of my research was 'Numerical Investigation of the Reynolds Number and Pitch Ratio Effect on the Lock-In Ability of an Aero-Acoustic Field in Ducted flows'.

I presented the outcome of my research at international conferences AIAA (American Institution of Aeronautics and Astronautics), Aeroacoustics Conference in Colorado in 2012 and at the FIV (Fluid Induced Vibrations) Conference in Dublin in 2013.

In 2013 I joined a consulting engineers firm as a senior CFD modelling engineer. I promoted the use of CFD modelling in different aspects of building. My role was to provide a wide variety of flow analysis for buildings related projects including indoor and outdoor thermal comfort, fire and smoke modelling, HVAC modelling, wind simulations and fluid-structure interactions.

I used the knowledge acquired from my PhD in aeroacoustics to investigate fluid-dynamic phenomena underlying generation of air-borne noise from building façade elements. I was granted an internal research founding to develop numerical methodologies that could predict if a façade design would generate noise when exposed to wind.

Dr Cristina Paduano, Chartered Engineer, B-Fluid and recipient of the Chartered Engineer of the Year Award (centre) is pictured with with Caroline Spillane, director general of Engineers Ireland and award sponsor, Donal McDaid, Infrastructure Businesses and Services Group leader at Arup Ireland.

The numerical methodology was tested and was found reliable in predicting potential noise generation from façade features and it was applied to different façade projects in Ireland and abroad.

I got the opportunity to work on large international projects and provided CFD simulations for projects such as Qatar Metro Stations, Abu Dhabi international airport; Amazon's data centre in Frankfurt; and Schiphol airport in Amsterdam.

In 2016 I decided to follow my ambitions of creating a group of aerospace engineers dedicated to advanced analysis of fluid/aerodynamic phenomena in the building sector. I founded B-Fluid – a buildings fluid dynamics engineering consultancy. The company proposes, within the civil engineering sector, a specialist team that investigates the behaviour of fluid flows in and around buildings, aircraft, and wind turbines by combining advanced flow numerical modelling and simulations with flow testing.

Who has inspired you in your career?

When I started my career in Ireland, I had a good director who inspired me to take my own decisions in solutions. My PhD adviser also helped me with thinking in a different way from a standard engineer.

Dealing with different types of clients inspired me to see things with an open mind. Above all my inspiration comes from the willingness of solving problems that can be not understood. Aerodynamics, in its complexity, offers a fascinating and challenging field to satisfy this attitude.

What inspires you about your work?

I like to find the solution with and for the client and work towards the solution using mathematical and physics understanding. The numerical simulation work allows me to predict and anticipate a potential scenario and find a solution.

B-fluid employs highly qualified engineers and they also inspire me to do better every day. They challenge and show an incredible care and desire to do well. I am inspired by looking at their interest in the profession as well as in the positive progress of the company.

Why did you want to become a Chartered Engineer?

After starting an engineering company three years ago I thought that it was the right time to become a Chartered Engineer to inspire my colleagues to do the same, but also to go through the process myself.

Opening my company enabled me to make decisions and take responsibilities for the business and the profession itself, and under different aspects which are not only technical. I felt I was ready to show this to other engineers and I saw the entire process as a test and proof that what I was creating was going in the right direction.

What tips would you give to any engineers starting their application?

Reveal your vision of the profession and show your interest. It is important to create an application that tells your story and all the steps in your career – the unique process that will lead you to the seat for your interview is your asset and should be something to enjoy and be proud of.

We can all go through personal development as well as technical skills development. I saw my interview as an opportunity to share the story of my career, the challenges and successes through time.

What projects or roles helped you in writing your application?

In 15 years of CFD modelling I worked on different projects from small smoke control systems to large thermal assessments and wind simulations, in Ireland and abroad. I do not see a project as more important than another for its commercial value or impact.

Some projects, although small, had more challenges than many of the big ones, but this is the beauty of CFD and the aerodynamics field. Very often the work I do includes the ability of understanding some basic components of a phenomena and make initial assumptions.

The model must be first understood as a principle in the mind of the modeller and then translated in an appropriate mathematical model. In this sense the projects that demonstrated this fundamental point more were those related to aeroacoustics predictions at façade elements, a problem still unknown to many but evident in various post-construction noise generating phenomena.

How did it feel to be awarded the Chartered Engineer of the Year title at the 2019 Engineers Ireland Excellence Awards?

I am incredibly grateful for this award. I felt a sense of recognition for my work that can often be misinterpreted as a work done by software and not by the person behind the program.

Has the Chartered Engineer title helped with your ability to win tenders and in giving presentations to potential clients?

I often propose an engineering solution which requires full engineering judgment other than code prescriptive method. In this case a Chartered Engineer title can help to reinforce the idea that your solution is valuable and responsible.