August 2, 2010Her job: Asst Professor, University of Southern California
Describe what you do in your current work situation?
As a professor, I lead a research group which invents new types of optical devices, like lasers, to study living cells and proteins. I also teach an undergraduate class on nanomaterials.
Why did you choose engineering?
While I really enjoyed my undergraduate and graduate coursework in physics and biology, I am more interested in applying this knowledge to real-life applications. Engineering allows me to do this.
Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have?
University of Chicago, BA physics California Institute of Technology, PhD Applied Physics, minor Biology
What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work?
I use photo- and electron lithography to pattern silicon wafers to make lasers. I perform optical and electron microscopy to image these lasers.
What do you like best about being an engineer?
Getting to work as part of team and invent something new.
Which of your career accomplishments are you proudest of?
Seeing several undergraduates successfully complete their degrees and continue on to graduate school.
What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career?
Discovering and inventing new things isn't easy, but the adage "try, try again" is extremely appropriate in the field of engineering. You should never give up on an experiment because it fails the first time.
Please tell us a little about your family.
I'm from Memphis TN, and married to another engineer.
What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals?
Short term: see my students graduate and be fabulously successful. Long term: see my students help other students be successful.
What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices?
There are three people. A graduate student (Prof. Ward Lopes) that I met when I was an undergraduate and my two post-doc advisors (Prof. Scott Fraser and Prof. Richard Flagan, both at Caltech).
What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering?
Never give up.
Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book.
In addition to a husband, I have two dogs and a cat. I also run.