Women in Engineering Panel

On April 3rd, 2014, BELLAS organized the Women in Engineering Panel. Five lady-engineers came to IMSA to give students their perspective on pursuing a career in engineering.  The guests were Ms. Bhavini Desai, an electrical engineer; Ms. Jacqueline Dearborn, a civil engineer; Ms. Cynthia Pederson, a chemical/nuclear engineer; Dr. Shangping Ren, a software engineer; and Ms. Maya Shah, a civil/environmental engineer. They all spoke greatly on the benefits of pursuing a degree in engineering. All of them showed that regardless of the specific branch, studying in an engineering field teaches students important skills needed to be successful in various careers. These skills include problem solving, communication, and hard work.

The panel was organized in a question and answer manner where students were permitted to inquire about engineering in college and the workplace. The panelists also gave insight into the lifestyle of an engineer.

Alyda Huerta got the questions going by asking, “How and why the panelists decided they wanted to pursue a career in engineering.” Many said that they enjoyed math, science and a challenge. It was hard to prove that they were just as good as the male classmates but they were able to earn their respect with their merits. They also went into the field knowing that engineers have a good future and were employed easily in the workplace. Ms. Dearborn even added that it was beneficial for women to study engineering because females think differently and are better at multitasking.

When asked about the experience of studying engineering in college, they all agreed that it is really broad and impersonal in the beginning; however, you start to narrow down your interests once you have learned the fundamentals. Dr. Ren includes that, “every year is beautiful in understanding yourself.” Along with the classes, Ms. Pederson emphasizes the importance of a good social life and leadership skills. Ms. Dearborn took many courses outside of engineering as a sort of escape to refresh her mind. Having a balanced experience in college will develop you into a great engineer as well as prepare you for the challenges in the workplace.

Along with involvement in clubs and extracurricular activities, the panelists advise students to ask questions, build relationships and put yourself out there in college. “Don’t shelter yourself; a good GPA is great but communication is essential. It won’t be easy when you’re put on the spot so it’s imperative that you start improving these skills now,” says Ms. Shah.

Lastly, the panelists were asked what the most exciting aspects of engineering were. They mentioned an appreciation for how there is no typical workday; engineers learn and develop new things every day. “The challenge of learning and working excites me the most” says Ms. Desai. “The entire process of figuring something out, solving it, and applying your solution to realistic use is exhilarating.”

The event was a grand success as many students left the Academic Pit understanding the field of engineering. “The panelists helped me realize that I definitely want to go into an undergraduate engineering program” says an enthusiastic IMSA junior.

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