An electrical engineering sophomore at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tania Daz is not yet ready to limit her learning to one single field. While working as a programming summer intern with NASA on computational and error-reduction enhancement, Daz also gained exposure to the structure of campaigns, organizational finance, and military spending. Such a diverse experience prompted her to take business classes at MIT toward the end of summer. Now, aside from her core schoolwork in electrical engineering, Daz is considering also a study in finance.
"MIT is a great place to explore different interests," Daz comments on the school's culture. "It has so many strong programs and it allows students to really learn."
Realizing that other female engineers might not be aware of all the opportunities that are available, Daz is working on increasing their awareness as the Scholarship Chair of the Society of Women Engineers, MIT chapter. Ultimately, she says, she would like to work in a place where people are encouraged to learn continuously. E-mail Daz at firstname.lastname@example.org
Reaching the Stars
"As I was growing up I was thinking about becoming an astronomer," says Heidi Anderson. But after interviewing an aerospace engineering professor for her freshman psychology class project, Anderson, now an aerospace engineering senior at the Georgia Institute of Technology, immediately changed her major from physics. After all, Anderson explains, engineering is in her blood; both of her parents are engineers and have inspired her to pursue an engineering career. Plus, she has a strong interest in airfoil design, and when she graduates in the spring of 2005, Anderson says she'll likely continue to study aerodynamics in the Georgia Tech graduate program. Ultimately, she adds, she would like to work on spacecraft design for NASA and develop a spacecraft that is more than just a shuttle.
But for now, Anderson is busy getting ready for her six-week hands-on study next summer at Oxford University, where she hopes to learn more about high-speed aerodynamics applications. E-mail Heidi Anderson at email@example.com
To Kristina Kirby, fighting the stigma that women are not fit for engineering is not only a concern but also a personal relevance. "I've gotten tired of hearing that engineering is a guy's degree, knowing that I can do it," says the electrical engineering junior at the University of Texas at Austin. So in 2002, after receiving a $750 grant from Royal Dutch/Shell, Kirby co-founded the Students Discovering Engineering Possibilities (SDEP) at UT Austin to promote engineering to female high school students.
"We found that 80% of female engineers became interested in engineering because they have families who are engineers," says Kirby, whose father also works in electrical engineering. For high school-age girls who were never exposed to engineering, Kirby and other SDEP officers are taking them to engineering research labs, companies, and organizing hands-on projects such as building wireless speakers and transmitters for CD players. "I think these girls will get excited [about engineering] if you challenge them with something they've seen but don't know how it works."
For her own engineering endeavor, Kirby is finishing up her co-op at MKS Instruments Inc., and is planning to pursue a master's degree in either electrical engineering or law, with a focus on intellectual property issues. E-mail Kirby at firstname.lastname@example.org