December 4, 2005Her job: Electrical Engineer, University of Colorado at Boulder
Describe what you do in your current work situation?
I'm an assistant professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
Why did you choose engineering?
I have always enjoyed learning new things and especially enjoyed the technical challenges math and science offered in high school. Because of my love of math and science, for my undergraduate work, I went to the University of Illinois at Champaign to study Electrical Engineering (EE). But, I had no idea what EE - or engineering - was about! I was very bored my first year and did not feel I was doing very well in the program (math, chemistry, and physics), so I thought I would drop out of engineering. However, during the summer I was hired as a co-op to work at Fermi National Accelerator Lab in the Particle Instrumentation Group for the fall semester. There, I discovered I loved engineering.
What do you like best about being an engineer?
As an engineer on an anthropology dig, involved in a sporting event, or working with doctors, you get to be involved in the whole project because you have to understand it all to make effective use of technology. You are a very important member of the team. Society is very dependent on technology, and knowledge of technology gives you more control of your environment.
What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career?
The biggest challenge I have had to overcome is accepting that my approach to engineering is valid. I am not a typical electrical engineer and even I did not see the value in my way of doing things... I always thought I was doing things wrong. But now I recognize I do things differently and often bring unique value to projects. One of my mentors once told me I was a change agent, and people don't always recognize the value of change agents. That is OK with me as long as I know I am making a difference. I challenge people to think in unusual ways and consider alternatives to the traditional solutions. Value your unique experiences.
Please tell us a little about your family.
I am very proud of being a mom. Kaitlin, born on 7-4-95, has attended many meetings and taught many classes with me. I think that by involving her in the university culture she (and I) have been a good role models for other faculty and students.