November 2, 2016Her job: Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Describe what you do in your current work situation?
I am in charge of institute wide programs for undergraduates at Rensselaer. This includes study abroad programs, the general curriculum, student advising, and more. br>
I am also still a Professor and do research in the area of polymer nanocomposites (!) and teach materials science and engineering courses
Why did you choose engineering?
Because I wanted to be in a field that created new things (so it never got boring) and helped solve some of the world's most pressing problems.
Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have?
My B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering is from Cornell University
My Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering is from the University of Pennsylvania
What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work?
I am a professor and I teach and mentor students. I love this part of my work. br>
I conduct research in nanocomposites materials which are being used in everything from improved materials for efficient electrical transmission to materials that help improve the efficiency of light emitting diodes.
What do you like best about being an engineer?
Solving interesting technical problems and constantly learning new things about how things work (including materials).
Which of your career accomplishments are you proudest of?
I am proudest of a movie I helped produce called Molecules to the Max (www.molecularium.com) that helps everyone understand more about materials in a fun/animated format.
I am proudest of my students who have gone on to make contributions to the field of materials science and engineering.
I am proudest of how I have helped create an atmosphere at work that is encouraging and supportive of all.
What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career?
I failed my first qualifying exam for my Ph.D. It was then that I learned how in depth we need to understand things in order to make new contributions to engineering.
I have met challenging personalities who hurt my feelings, but I have learned not to take things personally and to be true to the path that I feel is right.
Please tell us a little about your family.
I have a husband and two children. My son is now at Dartmouth College and will graduate in 2018 and my daughter just started at Williams College and will graduate in 2010. My husband works for General Electric. We love to ski and hike and travel. Three years ago we climbed the Grand Teton together. Two years ago we went to South Africa. We are looking forward to planning our next adventure.
What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals?
Short term - to launch a new program at Rensselaer called the Summer Arch. Our Sophomores will be required to spend the summer after their sophomore year on campus taking their first semester junior classes and will then spend the fall or spring semester on a professional development experience. This is a huge opportunity for us to create a unique and interactive summer semester and to provide students with key opportunities to advance their careers.
Long term I plan to retire and volunteer in the area, most likely in two areas: conservation, and education.
What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices?
My parents and my family overall.
What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering?
Recognize that there are all kinds of engineers, and that many engineers go on to work in other fields, but the skills they learned in engineering are valuable wherever they go.
Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book.
I am also a triathlete and just finished my first 1/2 ironman.