August 10, 2007Her job: Associate Professor, University at Buffalo
Describe what you do in your current work situation?
I am an engineering professor in Industrial and Systems engineering, with a focus on Human Factors Engineering. Being a professor means I get to DO some engineering (as a consultant for companies, occasionally); TEACH engineering to both undergraduate and graduate students both in formal classes, and through one-on-one advisement; do RESEARCH on engineering topics (in my field, ways to design better computer systems so that people get the information they need, and understand the information correctly, so that they avoid errors and get their work done efficiently); and work on university issues such as curriculum and university policies. Every day is different, and most days I get to work with very smart, interesting people, and learn something new. I spend alot of my time writing - either to describe the research work I want to do, or to describe what we have learned in reports and papers for other people to read.
Why did you choose engineering?
I was a good math & science student, and have an aunt who is an Industrial Engineering in the same specialty. So I started there, and found I liked it!
Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have?
I have a BS and MS in Industrial Engineering from UB. I have a PhD in Industrial and Systems Engineering, with a minor in Cognitive Science, from the Georgia Institute of Technology.
What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work?
My engineering work focuses on improving the computer systems that people use in their work. Some examples of the type of systems I work on are information displays of battlefield information for people in the military, or screens that shown patient information such as their name, age, sypmtoms, and treatment plan, for patients in an emergency department. People in my field find better methods to make sure that the workers (such as navy personnel, or physicians) can get the information they need quickly, and in a clear way, so that they can get their work done.
What do you like best about being an engineer?
I like influencing the design of things that people will use and being a strong advocate for the USER of complex systems that other engineers design. Human factors engineers get to apply their methods in all kinds of different situations - so I always get to learn about something new. I've gotten to learn about ships, hospitals, 911 response centers, emergency operations centers, transportation & shipping systems, architecture, computers which help disabled individuals speak, to name a few!
Which of your career accomplishments are you proudest of?
I was proud to complete a book, when it was finally finished! I am very proud to see our students graduate and move on to their own careers.
What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career?
Getting a PhD is a challenge. But a good one.
Please tell us a little about your family.
I met my husband as an undergraduate; we married when we were part-way through our PhD program. He is an electrical engineering professor at UB. We have a daughter who is in middle school.
What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices?
I have had great advice and support from my parents & extended family, my husband, and my professors & colleagues. They have all been valuable, in many different ways.
What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering?
Look around at the many engineering fields that are open to you. Even if you start out thinking you want to do one kind of engineering, it is often very easy to switch to another engineering major in college - take the time to talk to students and professors, and find a good fit for you. Remember - it is really important to LIKE what you are doing, even as a student.
Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book.
In addition to being with my family, I like to cook, I enjoy gardening in the summer, and I have made a number of quilts. I also am a novice runner, and enjoy trying to run faster 5K races!