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From transport engineer to vehicle engineer, then transport technical expert

Henrietta Lengyel PhD student of the Faculty of Transport Engineering and Vehicle Engineering told us about her outstanding career.

– Your career is not a usual one for sure, but let’s start at the beginning. After High Shcool, why did you choose this faculty?

– My family background has already put me in the direction of engineering, transportation and vehicles. Still, only after seeing a lecture at the Researchers Night I knew for sure that this is my way. Accident simulations were presented and I felt this was the area I wanted to address. My mother had doubts, she asked me if I had thought about it, because it was accidents after all that we were talking about, but this subject completely took me.

– Then, the bachelor’s degree in Transport Engineering was followed by a master’s degree in Vehicle Engineering?

– I have always planned to continue my studies at a master’s degree after the bachelor’s degree, and I have even set out to complete the doctoral program quite early on. At the same time, after the BSc in transport engineering, I felt like I wanted to move to a different direction. One of the specializations in Vehicle Engineering Msc training is road safety, which I applied for the Faculty in the first place, so I decided to try to get in. Luckily, I had the opportunity to apply with a pre-degree in transport engineering, and I didn’t even have to take extra classes. I was a little bit scared about managing as an only girl and as a transportation engineer among the vehicle engineers, but my groupmates have been very supportive all along, helping each other out. Of course, I’m not saying that it didn’t take a lot of perseverance and dedication to be able to take the difficulties successfully. Still, overall I really loved  the master’s program.

– And now you’re a PhD student at the Department of Automotive Technology.

– I liked the road safety specialization very much, and I really enjoyed the years of my master’s degree, so I decided to try the doctorate as well. The attitude of the Department of Automotive Technology has also been fantastic, and the team here, the opportunities, and the support of colleagues give so much that if I finish my PhD next year, I hope to stay and continue working here.

I have a hybrid topic that means that I study road safety and autonomous vehicles simultaneously. A significant part of the research projects in the department currently focuses on the subject of autonomous vehicles, i.e. self-driving vehicles, but of course, there are also many different fields in this area. I mainly study how these vehicles will be able to fit into existing transport infrastructures and how to adapt traffic rules and signals when it will be common for self-driving cars to run on the roads. I also work on the testability of critical situations based on these situations and the construction and design of test environments.

– University instead of the industry? Most people decide the other way around. Why did you stay?

As I mentioned earlier, I definitely wanted to do the doctoral training, so actually, there was no question that I would stay. Besides, the department and the faculty work with many leading automotive companies, and external projects are also regular, so we are in constant contact with the industry. And we work in close cooperation with the ZalaZONE test track, so I can assure you that we are part of the latest technological developments.

– Even though you stayed at university, you have experience in an industrial company. What was it like to work in the competitive sector?

– Yes, I worked for an international automotive company for a year or two. What struck me most was the incredible advantage I had over other young colleagues who didn’t graduate from the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. I had a lot more strength than the others, and I worked more efficiently, so I solved the tasks in a much shorter time. And I think it is because of the BME. Because it indeed takes a lot more effort to get a degree here, but here we acquire a valuable engineering mindset and problem-solving skills that students don’t get from other universities. Of course, you need to have diligence and perseverance because if someone signs up here, there will be nights when you can only sleep for two or three hours. But it was definitely worth it.

– You mentioned that you started MSc training in Vehicle Engineering as the only girl. This is now changing, slowly but surely, more and more girls are choosing the engineering profession, but let’s admit that women are still in the minority, especially in areas such as the Vehicle Engineering profession.

– Yes, that’s why it wasn’t always easy. But my classmates have always been helpful; I didn’t feel excluded at all. And I think that teachers and academic attitudes are changing, so maybe we’ll get to the point one day where it won’t be weird for a girl to choose engineering as a profession.

In my field, by the way, I see that some companies are already specifically looking for female engineers because a different mindset results in a more efficient job. Because if we start from a different perspective to solve a problem, it can help us find the best answers to our questions.

– What would you say to a high school student? Why should they choose the Faculty of Transportation Engineering and Vehicle Engineering?

– If they have engineering ambitions, the KJK is a good choice because you don’t need to be pre-trained here. I came from a regular high school, and of course, there were easier subjects for people who came from a vocational school, but I also managed to overcome these difficulties. And my example also shows well that starting as a transportation engineer doesn’t mean you will continue that way.