Ursula Gibson

Current Position: Associate Professor at Dartmouth College
Ursula Gibson
Highlight Believe in yourself, and pay attention in math class, even if it seems irrelevant…. Amazingly useful stuff, math!
August 21, 2007Her job: Associate Professor, Dartmouth College
Describe what you do in your current work situation? I teach engineering (materials science and nanotechnology) to college and graduate students. I also participate in research-- experiments on how light interacts with materials and structures a thousand times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.
Why did you choose engineering? It took me a while to find engineering -- I studied physics in school, but discovered that the connections of materials properties to applications were what really interested me.
Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have? I went to Dartmouth as an undergraduate (A.B. in Physics) and to Cornell (M.S. and PhD in Physics) for graduate school.
What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work? A typical day starts with e-mail; perhaps to schedule the rest of the day, or to catch up on things with people in Europe with whom I have projects.  During the school year, I typically give a lecture, meet with students, and plan homework and lab activities each day.  I also spend some time in the lab, helping students with their experiments, and doing some of my own.  Most days, there's some paperwork, though I often work on that at home in the evening.
What do you like best about being an engineer? I like the real-world applications - the fact that something I do can be of use in the wider world.
Which of your career accomplishments are you proudest of? Professionally, I am most pleased about the students I have helped to realize their intellectual and/or personal goals.
What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career? I have largely overcome my fear of public speaking (!).
Please tell us a little about your family. I have been married for 20 years to a Swede I met while I was at a conference in Stockholm (longish story). We have three wonderful children.
What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals? Short-term goals include a modest expansion of my research program, and long-term goals include writing a book.
What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices? There are many people who contributed -- my parents, who are both academic scientists, one of my first college professors, some of the graduate students with whom I spent a lot of time….
What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering? Believe in yourself, and pay attention in math class, even if it seems irrelevant…. Amazingly useful stuff, math!
Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book. I am a commercially rated instructor pilot, and have taught people to fly for several years, and have done aerobatics.  It is a wonderful challenge both intellectually and physically.  I am also an avid (if infrequent) windsurfer -- the constantly changing interplay between the wind, the waves and the rig, which can be in perfect dynamic balance, is something I find irresistible.