Career choice doesn’t come easily to some - as a child, I thought of growing up to become a pilot, an architect, an engineer, and the Prime Minister, and all at the same time. Additionally, I did not accept that as a girl I had only a few traditional career paths to choose from. For me, whatever my brothers could do, I could too.
With growing up came the realisation that, at least at any one time, I could take up one career path, and so engineering it was for me. As my father rather convincingly put it, “Sara, once you study engineering, you can apply your knowledge to any field of your choice - the world is your oyster”.
And so I completed my Bachelors in Electronics Engineering from National University of Sciences and Technology in Pakistan in 2006, but I wasn’t convinced that I wanted to build radars - instead I wanted to make a positive and real-time contribution to improve people’s lives around me, and so when in 2008 I was awarded the Rhodes Scholarship to “fight the world’s fight”, which is awarded to one student per year from Pakistan to study their subject of choice at Oxford, I chose biomedical engineering – the perfect platform to apply my engineering skills to develop healthcare solutions.
In 2009, I completed my MSc in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Oxford, and went on to study for a DPhil in Engineering Science, where the focus of my doctoral research was on the use of signal processing and machine learning methods to detect deterioration in the vital signs of acutely ill patients in hospitals. I completed my DPhil in 2014, and am currently working as a research assistant at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Oxford.
During my six years at Oxford, along with my studies, I managed to tie the knot, do College rowing, squash, amateur Shakespeare, have my baby whilst writing up. So yes, you can actually pack in a great deal as a woman in engineering, and succeed at it! Just remember, the world is your oyster.