Lucy Storey
23 June, 2021

Women in Engineering Day | Oxford Sixth Form College

Dr-Yahya2-e1624473584481-192x300 We are delighted to have interviewed Dr Noorhana Yahya: CTO, lecturer, celebrated inventor and mother to one of our students. Here she explains what she does for a career and how she got into the industry.

Dr. Noorhana Yahya, please could you briefly explain what you do for a career?

I have been a lecturer for almost 20 years at two different universities, Universiti Putra Malaysia and Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS (UTP).

I have passion in research, in the area of nanotechnology and electromagnetic (EM) and their interaction (wave-matter interaction known as phonon - photon interaction). I was a Professor at UTP and had led Advanced EM group which we secured approximately 50 million in total for the span of 6 years.

Currently, I am a Group Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and my main focus looking at new niche areas in the area of Green Technology. One of the products which the company produces is biodegradable plastic to solve the non-compostable plastics in the world. Other such as green naphtha and green methane are some of the products which are in the pipeline for development and commercialisation.


How did you find out about career options in this area? Did you always know you wanted to work in STEM?

STEM is what I have always love to do, and I have loved science and mathematics since I was very young. I especially love Physics.


How did you get to where you are today?

By studying hard during my younger days and I focus on my career and give full attention in whatever project I am entrusted.


You were awarded Best Inventor by the International Federation of Inventor Association (IFIA), could you tell us a little more about this?

World population is projected to grow from 6.5 billion in 2005 to nearly 9.2 billion by 2050. To feed a population of more than 9 billion free from hunger, global food production must nearly double by 2050. Food security must be dealt with. I invented a Green Urea product and a new process. The major culprit in agriculture is the application of fertilizer, which are not done according to the need of the plant, hence so much losses that had impacted the environment. Coated urea using a biodegradable product was proposed. The process of synthesising urea is green.


Can you take us through a typical day in your role?

As a Professor:

Discussion on research with Postgraduate students. Prepare lecture notes and research reports.


As a CTO:

Understanding the Business Architecture and how technology competitive edge that the product has for the market.

Morning: Reading materials (must be the right one) discussion with colleagues on how to go about approaching the problems and solution to the technical problems the company faces.


What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy having intellectual discussion and leading some of the most challenging problems faced by the world resulting to the reason to why Circular Economy is very important.


What are your hopes for the future of sustainability through technology, and for engineering as an industry?

Sustainability is not something that we can do to gain popularity. It has to be solved using STEM. It is not just about recycling, but to understand the thermodynamics of what needs to be recycled and how much it can also impact Global warming altogether. Biodegradable plastics are mandatory. Government policy must be aligned and enforcement must be made toward sustainability. In fact, Carbon neutrality must be done by encouraging students to do STEM.


What advice would you give to female students looking to pursue a career in this area?

Understand the market NEED in the next 10 years.

Digititalization is essential. Don't be afraid to study anything.

Everything will become easy when you think it is easy and actually, honestly, Physics is really fun. Women's energy is not fully captured, so better to start NETWORKING NOW, wherever you are.


If you are inspired to pursue a career in engineering or technology, we can advise on the right subjects or programme to take. Get in touch today!