Susan Burkett

Current Position: Professor at The University of Alabama
Susan Burkett
Highlight Keep reminding yourself of the overall goals you are pursuing and that obstacles are temporary. Find a mentor, there are so many people willing to help if only you ask.
April 1, 2008Her job: Professor, The University of Alabama
Describe what you do in your current work situation? I am a Professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I teach courses in Circuits, Electronic Materials and Devices. My research interests are in the Microelectronics area where my most recent activities have been in the area of 3D integration, or chip stacking. Vertical interconnection of devices allows for interesting applications, improved functionality, and electronics fitting in reduced spaces.
Why did you choose engineering? In high school I enjoyed Mathematics and Science classes but I did not have the confidence to pursue Engineering as a major. Instead I chose a major in Nutrition/Dietetics. I worked as a Dietitian in a hospital in Kansas City after graduation. I was not challenged by the work and the pay was low. I followed the advice of a high school friend to consider Engineering rather than looking at a 2-year internship that was required to advance in Dietetics. I decided to return for an Engineering Degree and do not regret that decision.
Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have? B.S Dietetics, Southwest Missouri State University. B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. Electrical Engineering, University of Missouri - Columbia.
What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work? In my academic position, it is a balance between teaching, research, and service.
What do you like best about being an engineer? Discovery that you experience in research projects and teaching students in the classroom and in the laboratory.
Which of your career accomplishments are you proudest of? A research grant from the National Science Foundation called CAREER that is designed for faculty members early in their careers.
What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career? It is challenging to be underrepresented in your field. The environment is not always an inclusive one, and that leads to feelings of isolation. I have learned to deal with it and keep speaking up to be heard. I also try to help young faculty when I can so they don't have to experience isolation.
Please tell us a little about your family. My husband is also a Professor at the University of Alabama in the Computer Science Department. We enjoy working at the same place and have also been successful in collaborating on projects together.
What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals? It is very exciting to be involved in preparing our future scientists/engineers and it is extremely rewarding to follow their successes. A short term goal is to build a solid research program at the University as I recently changed universities. My long term goal is to become a mentor to young faculty in teaching and research.
What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices? A major influence for my choosing Engineering as a career is a high school friend that has always been so supportive and my graduate advisor who encouraged me to pursue a PhD.
What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering? Keep reminding yourself of the overall goals you are pursuing and that obstacles are temporary. Find a mentor, there are so many people willing to help if only you ask.
Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book. I love to work on my house (inside and outside) so that it is a nice place to be, comfortable and organized.