Patricia Eng P.E.
The questions that you ask can only be answered by you. Choosing a field is very personal. I don't know what nationality you are or what your background is, so do not know if career tools are available to you, but in the States, there are many ways to help sort out what you should try first.
You may have heard of the Meyers Briggs test. This helps you identify your character traits and how you see the world. If you are interested, I am sure you can pick up a book on it. There are other tools that help identify what you are good at, versus what you like to do. They are not always the same. Interestingly, your scores change over time as you grow and develop new preferences.
As for where to get a degree, as you rightly point out, that is dependent on a lot of things such as money, affinity for the country and others. You have to follow your instincts on that. Note that there is a global shortage of competent engineers and scientists. Although competition is fierce, many of my colleagues bemoan the fact that the breadth and depth of knowledge possessed by recent graduates seems to be slipping. The key is to make sure that you get a good education, regardless of where, and that you learn critical thinking. It would also be helpful if you have strong communication skills.
The bottom line is to look inside, versus outside. You will get 100 different opinions from 100 different people, but only you know your self and what you like and dislike. Use that as your guide on where to go next. And if you don't like it, you can always change.
Good questions.....First off, I think that it is important that you get a degree from a school with a strong technical reputation.
Smith is a good school, but when I went there, there was no engineering school. They have been very active in encouraging women to go into engineering, but having been to both Smith and the University of Illinois, for the money, I would go to Illinois. ( I believe that you are an Illinois resident? Much less expensive, although Purdue is also a good school ) I would think that you would get a better education from the U of IL, on the other hand the competition will be more than at Smith. I went to Smith because I thought that having a degree from a Seven Sisters school would look good on my resume, but in the end, I left Smith because at the time, I felt that their physics department wasnt preparing me for the working world. When I got to the U of IL, it was a real culture shock. I went from a small girls school of 4000 women to a school of 40,000 students. It took me a while to get used to the pace of things. After I got used to it, I found it challenging. One thing I learned at U of IL that I dont think one can get from Smith is how to work in teams with both men and women. That happens a lot in the work place.
I am somewhat partial to the nuclear engineering department, or NPRE as it is called now, and sat on the advisory board for them for a few years.
I do not have first hand experience with their biomedical department, but I know that Illinois is working hard to improve the faculty and expand their department.
What I can tell you, is that when I review resumes, I like to see graduates from a strong science and engineering school and U of IL certainly is one of those.
There are some pitfalls in co-ed engineering schools - if you have a chance to take a quick look at a book written in 2002 by Jane Margolis and Allan Fisher entitled, Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing. Although it is about computer science, it talks about some of the social issues faced by women going into technical disciplines in college. Dont let it scare you - but it might help you make up your mind. It is a short book and you can probably get it at the library.
Well, this is a long answer to your question, but I hope it helps.
I wish you the best of luck - and keep on going!
Hello. I am glad that your daughter is interested in engineering. It is a very rewarding and fulfilling career. I have worked as a nuclear engineer for over 30 years and never gave up my femininity. Being a girly girl is OK as long as it doesn't cross the line into poor taste. I love my clothes and makeup too, but when I need to work, I work hard. Obviously low cut dresses, see through or tight clothing, or dresses that show a lot of leg can be distracting on the job and may give the wrong impression to staff and management, in some cases it can invite sexual harassment, but wearing trendy but tasteful clothing in an office setting is fine. The key is to be professional. It may be helpful to contact the local section of the Society of Women Engineers for additional information . . . Good luck! And I hope your daughter pursues engineering. It is a great career with a bright future!