Yetunde Kolawole is a Ph.D. candidate working in digital communications at the University of Edinburgh. She’s working on a project that could enable downloading of an HD video in less than a second. Yetunde has previously spent a year working with Ericsson before returning to the UK to start her Ph.D in Edinburgh.
“…I’ve never shied away from a chance to prove myself among boys…”
A chance to prove myself
I’ve always been interested in understanding how things work, and even as a young girl, I was less interested in playing with my toys, and keener to taking them apart to know where the sounds came from! So, it was only natural to go on to pursue a degree in electrical electronics engineering. But I’ll be honest, the fact that it was male dominated was also an added incentive, because I’ve never shied away from a chance to prove myself among boys.
After completing my degree, I went on to pursue a Master’s degree in telecommunications. Then, because I wanted to get hands on experience, not just academia, I went to Nigeria to work for a year with Ericsson, before returning to do my Ph.D. in digital communications.
Working on a project to envision the future of telecommunication
My research is basically about trying to envision telecommunication in the future and the possible challenges it might face, and then crafting solutions before those challenges arise. On a day to day basis, what this looks like is creating models of possible scenarios and using simulations to test their feasibility. Basically, I write a lot of code every day!
I’m very excited to be part of a team working on next generation telecommunications, popularly known as 5G. My focus is on the millimetre wave spectrum, which offers the potential to exponentially increase bandwidth. Simply put, with this technology, it might be possible to download HD video in less than one second!
Let me try to break it down. Many people might not know this, but all the telecommunications we currently have – smartphones, Wi-Fi, online gaming, and of course social media – all of this amazing technology works on specific frequencies of the radio-frequency spectrum, under 6 GHz. The millimetre wave frequencies offer bands that can go as high as 300 Ghz, and our research is all about exploring how to make this happen.
What my year working in industry in Nigeria taught me
Working in Nigeria was quite exciting for me after learning about base stations, because I finally got to get my hands dirty doing field work. I got to work on carrying out maintenance work, monitoring performance of sites and fixing base stations that had gone down. I learnt a lot! Two major things that stayed with me were the importance of redundancy (having backups for your backups) and of being on your toes 24/7. Some of the base stations we covered were powering major hospitals, banks and large regions so we couldn’t afford to have them go down at all if possible.
Celebrating International Women in Engineering Day
I’ll be celebrating International Women in Engineering Day this year by participating in the I’m An Engineer, Get me out of here, an online event where I get to do one of my favourite things – explain engineering! It’s a free event where engineers take all sorts of questions from school students about what we do! I’m really looking forward to it.
Events like International Women’s Day matter because they help remind everyone about the issues women face all over the world, and they can help spotlight the inspiring work of women achieving great things against all kinds of odds, which can be a great motivation for girls everywhere.
Advice for other potential female engineers
If you’re a girl or woman interested in engineering but not sure where to start, I’d suggest you begin by talking to other engineers. Talk to male engineers too, because they’re engineers after all and you can gain much from them. But definitely talk to female engineers as well, so you can learn not just about engineering, but specifically about what challenges and opportunities exist for you as a woman.
Digital communications – so many possibilities
I’m in the second year of my Ph.D. right now, and I’m definitely looking to finish right on schedule. As for what’s next, to be honest, I don’t know for sure – there are so many possibilities! That said, I’m seriously considering getting into industry again and engaging what I’ve been working on so far at a more hands-on level.
Nigerian map image credit: By Ukabia (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons