Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Mauritius, Romeela has always encouraged girls to study for engineering degrees.
Romeela tells us of her experience working in environmental engineering in Mauritius in her own words.
I was first inspired by chemistry at the age of 13, where the experiments I took part in at college enabled me to gain an insight into activities in everyday life, based on chemistry principles. I was inspired by my chemistry teacher and found experiments in practical sessions fascinating. At the same time I was exposed to the chemistry principles involved in food production and storage from my mother, who was studying for a diploma in food nutrition.
Whilst I was growing up, Mauritius was a country highly dependent on sugar manufacture and export; my school visits to sugarcane factories led me to see the chemical processes in the extraction of sugarcane juices and production of sugar. You could say that my route to chemical engineering stemmed from this; what led me to chemical and environmental engineering was the particular interest I had in processes at large-scale level to yield more efficient, environmentally friendly and useful products for society.
Encouraging girls into a career in engineering
For my postgraduate studies, I embraced a Master's and a PhD in environmental engineering, where I dealt a lot with the physics and chemistry of the environment. When I started my career in 1990, there were few girls in engineering, especially dealing with the practical application of chemistry and the environment in onsite situations, such as waste landfilling, or physical and chemical characterisation of municipal solid wastes.
I was the first woman to join the faculty of engineering at the University of Mauritius with an engineering degree. I helped to establish the Department of Chemical Engineering and was the head of department in 1996, when we launched two B.Eng degrees in chemical and environmental engineering and chemical and sugar engineering.
During the course of my career and subsequently as dean of the Faculty of Engineering, I have always encouraged girls to enrol in engineering degrees. In fact, the actual rate of enrolment of girls in chemical engineering is around 50% within the faculty and most of my MPhil/PhD students are young women. It is so pleasurable to meet my past female students who hold very important positions in industry and other institutions. Today, some of them have also become my colleagues.
Interview by Emily James
Images courtesy of Romeela Mohee
Published May 2013