Dr Annette Karstensen is a Fracture Mechanics and FFS Specialist at Becht with an MSc in Engineering from Aalborg University in Denmark and a PhD in Fracture Mechanics from Glasgow University.
Dr Karstensen talks us through how she came to be interested in engineering from a young age to travelling globally, as well as her advice to her younger self when she was beginning her career in engineering.
When did you join The Welding Institute?
I joined in 1996, I was fortunate enough to work at TWI in the Structural Integrity department after I finished my PhD and I was encouraged to join during that time. I worked at TWI for 7 years before I moved to New Zealand with my Kiwi husband.
Please describe your current job role and responsibilities/a typical day in your role:
I am a FFS and fracture mechanics specialist who gets involved in structural integrity projects for Becht clients. The projects mainly relate to advanced fracture mechanics, high temperature and fatigue issues. My projects have ranged from leak before break evaluation of large storage tanks, to remaining life calculations of steam methane reformer tubes, to establishing minimum pressurisation temperatures for pressure equipment, and the avoidance of brittle fracture. I also teach the API 579 course globally and have taught close to 50 courses in the past 15 years.
Why did you choose a career in engineering?
When I was a kid, I would pull things apart and try not to have too many parts left over when I put them together again. In my teens, I got fascinated by industrial failures and wanted to become part of an investigative team that works out why failures occur. So, when I came to choose a career path, engineering was the obvious choice. Initially working at TWI gave me a really good opportunity to work across departments, learning all the different aspects that need to be investigated during a failure analysis.
What’s one of your biggest career highlights or achievements that you’re most proud of?
Helping clients in the petrochemical, refining or power industry better understand their integrity issues has been very rewarding over the past 25 years. I believe the highlights are when clients make an effort to call or write an email to let me know how the work that I have delivered has helped them and letting me know how much they appreciate the effort.
In my previous role, I was the team lead for the Asia Pacific Structural Integrity team, and one of the most rewarding parts of this job was to see how young engineers straight out of university developed into competent consultants under the mentorship that was offered in my group. I remember sitting in a client meeting one day discussing a difficult technical problem, with the conversation being led by a young engineer that I had recruited and helped train and mentor, being in that meeting and seeing how well he performed felt like a real achievement.
What has made engineering fun and enjoyable?
I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel to many clients' sites worldwide, which has been extremely rewarding. Through my job, I have travelled extensively throughout Asia, the US, Europe, and the Middle East. I have actively participated in numerous plant turnarounds, offering "while-you-wait" fitness-for-service advice. This ensures that decisions regarding return to service or repair can be made promptly and immediately. These jobs have been rewarding as there are often so many factors to consider and the issues are very varied.
What is one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
A funny challenge was on my first day at TWI when I met one of my new teammates. The first thing he asked was, “what football team do you support?” I had to very quickly pick a team - which I have followed from the side-lines since!
Why did you initially join The Welding Institute?
I was encouraged to join The Welding Institute when I started working at TWI. At that time, I was a member of the Danish Engineering Association.
I initially became registered with the European Federation of National Engineering Associations (EurIng) in 2001. I think I applied for Chartered Engineer (CEng MWeldI) in 2003, through The Welding Institute, and in 2013 I got elected as a Fellow (FWeldI).
What are your core involvements with The Welding Institute, what do they entail and why do you undertake them?
Would you recommend Membership with The Welding Institute?
I would recommend membership to anyone with an interest in welding and joining technology and structural integrity living in the UK.
What advice would you give or what would you say to your younger self beginning your career in engineering?
Get formal mentorship early in your career and have set goals. During the mentor discussions, keep a notebook of the goals and discussions with the mentor. The mentor does not necessarily have to be someone from your own work, it can be someone from academia or it can be someone from a different organisation that you admire and would like to learn from. Also, don’t be afraid of changing mentors or have more than one at any time, the more input from different angles the better.
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