She was questioning from an early age and loved being taught about design and manufacturing in her father's workshop – now Mary Doyle-Kent is the mentor. She loves working in engineering and education, while the best advice she would give to her students is to work abroad in the early part of your career and always seize the moment.
"I started my engineering education at DIT Bolton Street where I pursued an honours degree in production engineering and, later, a master's in mathematics at Trinity College Dublin," says Mary Doyle-Kent.
"In 1996, I completed a master's in engineering, and I have been a chartered member of Engineers Ireland for more than 20 years.
"During the first 10 years of my career as a production/manufacturing engineer, I worked in the area of new products in the automotive industry in the Loire Valley, France, the toy industry in Co Waterford, and the sunglasses industry, also in Co Waterford.
"Around this time I also was involved in a BRITE-EURAM research project in the Department of Experimental Physics, Maynooth University, I lectured in DIT Bolton Street in the evenings and undertook a research master's in engineering at Dublin City University.
Pivotal point in career
"I joined the WIT INSYTE group five years ago and it was a pivotal point in my career. The encouragement and collegiality of Dr Larry Stapleton, Dr Peter Carew, Orlagh Costello and Dr John Organ have inspired me to push boundaries and open new research doors."
Doyle-Kent is studying for her PhD at TU Wien, Vienna, Austria, where Professor Peter Kopacek is her supervisor. The experience of studying and publishing abroad is transformative, she says.
Vienna, Austria, where Mary Doyle-Kent is studying for her PhD at TU Wien.
She is currently the programme leader for the BEng in Manufacturing Engineering course (WD208) at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT), where she lectures in the areas of production and manufacturing technology, sustainable materials, thermodynamics, engineering design and quality in manufacturing.
She has an interest in mentoring, engineering ethics, environmental design and effective communications skills and. over the past number of years, has strived to involve local industries into our courses through site visits and industry-specific student projects.
Doyle-Kent is the chair of the Engineers Ireland's South East Region and co-runs transition year 'Engineer Your Future' programmes in WIT.
1) When did you first become interested in engineering?
I had a great interest in science, maths and physics in primary school (Piercestown, Co Wexford) and secondary school (Loreto, Co Wexford).
We didn’t have the opportunity to do any ‘engineering type’ subjects but I was always questioning from an early age. How did the television work? What made one material stronger than another?
I loved learning and solving problems in the classroom. My father had a workshop with a lathe and so on and it was natural to me to see things being made and fixed.
2) Who were the mentors who helped you on your way?
I went to Bolton Street (DIT) to study production engineering. It was a fantastic place to learn about all things engineering as it was the ideal combination of practical and theoretical.
We had very skilled teachers and they worked us when things got tough by providing additional tutorials and help in the workshop.
Sully sur Loire, France, where Mary Doyle-Kent worked in the automobile industry in the early part of her career.
The facilities were very good, and everything was set up to help the students to become good, practical engineers. John Lawlor, Matt Russell, Jim Conlon, John Kelleher, John Vickery, Pat McLoughlin, and John Murphy are among some of the great lecturers that I remember from this time. And the workshop was a great favourite.
When I graduated, I went to France to work in the automobile industry as a design engineer in Sully sur Loire. I have great memories from this time in my early career and I still have friends there that I visit from time to time.
3) Your engineer hero?
My late father, James Doyle. Even though he wasn’t a qualified engineer he taught me so much about design; the manufacturing process; materials; testing; and resilience.
In his lifetime he invented a number of products and patented them (including a variable speed transmission unit). His work ethic has remained with me throughout my life.
4) An engineer you wish was better known?
Over the past 12 months I have become familiar with the work of an Irish engineer through my work on a PhD in the area of Industry 5.0.
Prof Cooley's first book.
Professor Mike Cooley, a native of Tuam, Co Galway, is an expert in socially responsible technology and human centred systems.
His career in manufacturing spanned over 30 years and his understanding of the implication of automation and robotics and how it can transform society for good or ill, has resonance in modern day. Prof Cooley wrote two books: Architect or Bee?: The Human Price of Technology and Delinquent Genius: The Strange Affair of Man and His Technology (published 2018).
5) Your idea of project heaven?
For the past 20 years I have had the great pleasure of working as a lecturer in Waterford Institute of Technology. I have supervised many projects at both degree and master’s level.
The one project that I enjoyed the most was the design and manufacture of a robotic arm that helped my friend’s special needs teenage daughter drink, for the first time, independently.
The ingenuity of our students – together with a good education, modern technology and tools – can have a transformative effect on society, in general, and on an individual’s life, in particular.
6) And project hell?
Being responsible for reversing climate change.
7) What are your favourite feats of engineering?
I think anybody that knows me knows that I am very connected to my mobile phone. The iPhone is ingenious.
The soon-to-be-opened Rose Kennedy Fitzgerald bridge over the River Barrow.
On a more local level, as I have had a daily commute from Wexford to Waterford for 20 years now, I look forward to the opening of the magnificent Rose Kennedy Fitzgerald bridge in the near future.
I have followed its build for more than a year now. It is one of the most outstanding feats of Irish civil engineering.
8) What is/are the most important trend/s in engineering right now?
I believe the most significant trend in engineering is automation and robotics. It will have a significant effect in all aspects of life, not just engineering.
9) If you could, is there any one measure you would introduce to help improve the gender balance within the profession?
One of my personal goals is to promote engineering to all, and specifically to improve gender balance.
I believe that the only way to solve the 'world’s big problems' is through allowing all diverse groups to have a voice.
We need more inclusion of marginalised communities in the profession of engineering. The big question is how do we do this? I believe we need to redefine 'engineering' and give it a more modern meaning and context.
After all, engineering is about using design and technology to improve the quality of life. Now we need to get this message out into the community. We also need to support women throughout their working careers.
Prof Cooley's book, which Doyle-Kent is reading at present.
10) What book is on your bedside table?
As I am in the middle of a PhD I am reading lots of engineering related books at the moment. I have really enjoyed Prof Mike Cooley’s Delinquent Genius.
I recommend it as it really got me thinking about the future of the human being in the modern working world, where robots, automation and artificial intelligence are common-place.
11) What is the one piece of advice you would give to somebody starting out in the profession?
As somebody who loves travelling, I recommend working abroad at the beginning of your career, if possible.
It is a great way to experience different ways of working and other cultures. It really does broaden your mind and build resilience.
I would also advise budding engineers to be open to opportunities. Look at expanding your experiences and remember you are always adding to your CV.
We live in a time when the only thing we can be sure of is that this will change. Be brave and push your limits. Life-long learning is essential and be open to new adventures when the opportunities arises. Education opens doors. Join Engineers Ireland and be part of the great network and professional community that this will present to you.
12) What is your favourite film?
Recently, I really enjoyed watching First Man, about Neil Armstrong. It was released in 2018, and Ryan Gosling played Neil, while his wife, Janet, was played by Claire Foy.
Down-to-earth heroes: President Richard Nixon welcomes the Apollo 11 astronauts aboard the USS Hornet, from left: Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin Aldrin. Image: NASA/JSC
It is a very moving story of a human being who pushes the boundaries of engineering and science. It was told in such a way that it gives an insight into human – father and husband – as well as the astronaut. I really enjoyed the musical score and it remains an all-time favourite which I enjoy watching with my family.
13) If you weren’t an engineer, what might you have become?
I would have been an educator at some level. As a lecturer in third level I am in the lucky position of bringing my two passions together: engineering and education.
14) What is a typical day for you?
I leave home at 7.45am and travel from rural Wexford to WIT. I have lectures and practicals most days. I also meet up with students to discuss projects, attend meetings and prepare lectures and so on.
I leave WIT at 5pm, collect my son from home and travel to the gym three evenings per week. I arrive home at about 7.30pm and prepare for the next day.
15) What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Seize the moment. Life certainly doesn’t always work out the way you think it will, so when you can, enjoy the good times.
A 2019 conferring ceremony at Waterford Institute of Technology.
I am definitely a glass-half-full person and believe in making opportunities work through dedication and hard work.
16) What do you do to relax?
I love to swim in the sea and read. I enjoy meeting up with friends and am a member of a local book club.
When the opportunity arises, I love to travel and discover new places and cultures. My perfect evening? It would be a beautiful summer's evening in Wexford – Ireland's sunny southeast – and my husband, children and myself would all go out for a very nice meal in a local seafood restaurant.