Professor Becky Lunn holding an Aberconway Medal.

I currently lead a major project sponsored by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Civil Engineering Contractor, BAM Nuttall, to take research technologies I have been developing at the University of Strathclyde into the ground-engineering industry.

Professor Becky Lunn

Microbially induced calcite precipitation (MICP) is a technique that uses a harmless bacterium found in soils to produce the mineral, calcium carbonate. This mineral binds the soil particles together, turning loose soil into rock, and thereby greatly improving its strength. I aim to treat soils without disturbing them so that we can use MICP to create engineered structures from the soil already present at the site, for example, strengthening beach sands to make coastal defences or strengthening soils to make building foundations. The use of MICP in industry could significantly reduce global cement/concrete use, which currently accounts for around 8% of global man-made carbon dioxide emissions.

I love that as a research engineer, I have the freedom to think – developing occasionally ‘off-the-wall’ solutions to engineering challenges. I have built a team of multidisciplinary staff and students that enables this to happen. They have skills that far exceed my own, in a wide range of disciplines, including microbiology, chemistry and physics, so there is always something new for me to learn.

Winning the Aberconway Medal from the Geological Society made a huge difference to me. Based on a nomination process in which names are proposed in strict confidence by Fellows of the Society, I had no idea that my name had been put forward. I was the first woman and the first engineer to receive the award, and as a young researcher, it gave me the belief that I could perform at a national and international level.

Becky is holding the Aberconway Medal, which she was awarded by the Geological Society in 2011 for her work with industry.