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From student to Head of Strength Simulations at Scania

27 JUNE 2024

Ulrika's career path illustrates her transformation into a leader in strength simulations, navigating the intricacies of R&D, steering a team in a highly technical field, and embracing the responsibilities of parenthood.

Ulrika Lagerblad's early fascination with engineering and mathematics is readily apparent. She studied at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm, and in 2011 she joined Scania’s student introduction programme during her studies. This allowed her to do her master’s thesis at Scania in 2012, in the testing group that performed vehicle durability tests. Subsequently, Ulrika was hired as a Development Engineer and transitioned into pursuing her PhD studies.

The PhD journey

Her PhD work centred on vehicle fatigue and damage prediction through state estimation – an area crucial for ensuring vehicle components withstand the demands of real-world usage and the safety and reliability in automotive design. This involved estimating component strength in critical positions based on measurements taken elsewhere. It combined theoretical development with experimental validation. 


“I find the subject interesting and can see the benefit of having these estimations and simulations. I see that I can contribute a small piece of the larger puzzle and make that contribution to science,” says Ulrika. She spent the first year of her doctorate reading relevant literature and taking courses. It is crucial for acquiring knowledge, understanding previous studies, and identifying potential areas for further research. 


In the subsequent two years, she used her insights to create and program an innovative algorithm for estimating the strength of various vehicle parts. In her final years, she dedicated her time to verifying her algorithm and simulations by doing a lot of experiments in the laboratory, where she worked with industry experts and professionals.

Balancing academia and parenthood

Despite moments of self-doubt, she pressed on, even amid the added responsibilities of motherhood to two children. She took two parental leaves, which extended her PhD journey from five to seven years. Balancing work and personal life was challenging, yet she found rewards along the way. Ulrika's path led her to global conferences, connecting with fellow scientists and contributing to scientific understanding. Witnessing her theoretical ideas materialise in experiments was deeply fulfilling. 


Through it all, she discovered her strengths in diverse situations. "I've learned a lot about myself. How do I react in different situations when things don’t go as planned? I also learned to motivate myself. The greatest outcome extends beyond academic knowledge; it's the self-awareness and resilience that I now apply daily in my work."


In her post-PhD role, Ulrika's deep knowledge of solid mechanics became invaluable as she took on the position of CAE (Computer Aided Engineering) Engineer. She further honed her expertise and rose to become the Head of the Strength Simulations within Emission Solutions Development where she undertook a new path of leadership managing a team of engineers.


Ulrika's encouraging journey embodies perseverance and dedication. She manages to balance PhD studies, career, and family at the same time while advancing her field of research and developing her leadership skills.