Dr. Ellie Cosgrave

Dr. Ellie Cosgrave

Country United Kingdom

Specialisms Environmental, built environment and gender, academic and trainer

Career highlights

How I became a civil engineer

I studied for an undergraduate degree at the University of Bristol with summer placements in engineering firms. I then studied for an Engineering Doctorate in Smart Cities with Arup before completing a post-Doctorate at University College London (UCL) on 'Transforming the Engineering of Cities.'

I now lecture in Urban Innovation and Policy at UCL which means I get to teach the next generation of engineers! I spend some of my time researching questions like ‘how can engineering be more inclusive?’ or ‘how does the built environment affect people’s mental and physical health?’ 


Dr. Ellie is an ICE Superhero because...

Dr. Ellie Cosgrave is a civil engineer passionate about making our cities better for people.

Dr. Ellie earned her superhero status and nickname Urban Angel for her work researching and designing how cities can be friendlier, help us to be healthier and make sure that everyone has the same opportunities to travel and do things.

Why I became an engineer

I wanted to become an engineer because I understood the link between access to infrastructure services (like energy, water, food, transport, safe housing etc.) and people’s ability to live happy and fulfilling lives.

I studied civil engineering at the University of Bristol. I had a wonderful time both geeking out on the maths and science of engineering design as well as gaining a deeper understanding of the social impacts. It was here I first got involved with Engineers Without Borders UK, where, as Education Coordinator I set up the education programme, which I am delighted to continue to support to this day.

A typical day in your life

Any given day can be so different, it’s the thing I love about my job! One day I might be exploring the city with my students- taking them on site visits, or looking for mischievous ways we can disrupt the built environment (like lighting a candle and incense stick in a phone box and writing an invitation on the floor in chalk for a passer-by to make contact with someone they love).

Another day I might be speaking at a conference in Cairo, San Francisco, Melbourne, Singapore, or anywhere. I really value the opportunity to discuss cutting-edge issues with colleagues from all around the world.

On other days still I sit alone at my desk, grappling with how to capture my thoughts, ideas and research in writing so that it can be useful to wider audiences.


Engineering really does offer you the opportunity to work with all sorts of different people, in all sorts of projects all over the world. I don’t think I could have imagined this before I gave it a go.

Dr. Ellie Cosgrave

Associate Professor, UCL

I would recommend a career in civil engineering because

Engineering expands your horizons and possibilities. There are so many opportunities to explore and you can really tailor a career around your own passions and interests. It’s not just one thing, don’t let anyone tell you differently.

What’s the biggest/most complex thing you’ve made out of Lego? How long did it take you?

I was never particularly into Lego as a child but recently I have been enjoying helping my nephew with his Lego projects (I think I get too involved however!) We've made an aeroplane and the Batmobile together.

Which individual project or person inspired you to become a civil engineer?

As a teenager, I didn’t really know what engineering was. I think that’s pretty normal. I knew I liked maths and science (but I also loved dance and humanities). One day my maths teacher printed an application form for a Headstart course and put it on my desk before class. She thought engineering could be for me. I didn’t feel particularly confident that I was good enough but the more I learnt about it the more excited I got. There were also two girls in the year above me who went to study engineering, so I gained more confidence that engineering really could be for someone like me.

Complete this phrase: I’m a civil engineer, but I’m also …

A dancer, a feminist, an activist.

What about being a civil engineer gets you out of bed each morning?

I like working in teams with colleagues who inspire me and who push my thinking forward. Coffee also helps.

What’s one great thing that you love about civil engineering that you didn’t know until you started working in the industry?

That teamwork makes the dream work! Engineering really does offer you the opportunity to work with all sorts of different people, in all sorts of projects all over the world. I don’t think I could have imagined this before I gave it a go.

Which civil engineering project (past or present) do you wish you’d worked on?

Any bridge ever! The closest I got to that was scanning some road bridges in North London to check the steel reinforcement was still strong enough and hadn’t deteriorated too much. I’d have liked to have worked on a more awe inspiring bridge!

Name one civil engineering myth you’d like to bust?

That it’s only about maths and technical stuff.

I want to become a civil engineer.

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