Ursula Gibson

Ursula Gibson

Associate Professor
Dartmouth College
Ursula Gibson
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I teach engineering (materials science and nanotechnology) to college and graduate students. I also participate in research activities, investigating the interaction of very small structures with electromagnetic fields.
Answers by Ursula Gibson

Dear Taryn,

Combining engineering with fashion sounds like a great thing to do.  The "high-tech" wearables industry is just emerging, and is sure to be a growth industry.  The two engineering aspects that are most relevant are materials (particularly polymers) and electronics (since much of the wearables to date include "active display" elements.  If you have a combination of design and engineering training, you will be a very valued employee.

Dartmouth has a modified major between studio art and engineering that helps students who have similar interests (not that you should change schools), and graduates often end up in advanced product design positions, where their ability to communicate effectively with people in "both camps" is highly desired.  Go for it!  And let me know when you design a dress that is also a solar collector --

Best Regards,

Dear Kennedy,

There are scholarships based on academic merit, sports talent, and financial need.  In all cases, you will need to have excellent grades, and it helps if you have demonstrated your interest in your future career through extracurricular activities.

That said, it is early for you to be focusing on one particular area, so I encourage you to do your best in all your courses, especially those in science and math.  You need that background to get the most out of opportunities that come your way. 

I encourage you to google for volunteer positions within your community both to get experience and demonstrate your interest.

Best wishes,

Hi Liz,

Thank you for your question! It sounds like you are definitely on the right track with the Math, and Physics will be important, too. The current guidelines for an accredited college engineering degree include Chemistry, so taking that in high school is a great idea. As far as picking an engineering track at this point, try the classes that your high school has, and see what you like. Also - not every engineering school puts you into a career box right from the start - places like Harvey Mudd, Dartmouth's Thayer School, Olin College, Smith and others do engineering as a cross-disciplinary program, and it seems to work really well. That way you get to take college level classes before committing to a track, and usually, it serves you well in your career to know something about the other kinds of Engineering. As you get closer to graduating, you can look at different college programs to find one that works well for you.

Best wishes,

Hi Erica, Nanotechnology is an interesting field because it so often involves collaborations between investigators from different backgrounds. That said, I think that most nanotechnology programs are centered in Materials Science/Engineering. To start your studies, you will need to take math, physics and chemistry. When you take these basic courses, I think that you'll find your interests will become more clear -- you may want to emphasize one discipline over the others. If the connections between the courses, and their potential applications get you going, then Materials Engineering might be just the right thing for you. Don't be worried about not knowing exactly what you want to do yet, but consider attending a college where you don't have to choose your major very early on. But do keep going in math -- it is important to all science and engineering disciplines! best wishes, Ursula Gibson