June 11, 2010Her job: Professor, University of North Texas
Describe what you do in your current work situation?
I have three responsibilities to teach, research and serve the scientific community through service activities. I enjoy the mix of the three parts a lot. Teaching is a wonderful way to learn and even if I have taught a class before, Mechanical and Materials Engineering is a creative degree that allows for continued growth. I am very excited about working on engineering new solutions. On some days it is surgical meshes that can mimic tissue or bone in mechanical response, on others it is bioproducts that can lower the carbon footprint without sacrificing functionality of their synthetic alternative. I like integrating my research into the classroom and encouraging people to live to their potential. Thus I see my three responsibilities as integrative rather than separate.
Why did you choose engineering?
I would answer this by saying I went into Engineering at the suggestion of my mother but REMAINED in engineering because I found that it brought together creativity with a quantifiable advantage. I would look at roofs and trusses and bridges completely differently after my first semester which had a course - STATICS.
Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have?
I did my undergraduate in Pune a city near Bombay (Mumbai, India). I did a senior project with an industry developing a biorenewable composite together with the National Chemical Laboratory. That led me to research as a career and I went to Auburn Alabama where my admission to mechanical engineering was associated with a new materials program. I wanted to do mechanical engineering with a focus and so went to Texas A&M to do my doctorate.
What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work?
Problem solving is a very positive aspect of my work. I enjoy mulling over what solutions are possible and honing in on one. I like the process of discovery and communicating it. I like being hands on and love to look at plots and graphs in new ways. I enjoy reading new areas.
What do you like best about being an engineer?
Figuring things out and getting the basic knowledge from which to do more than we are taught.
Which of your career accomplishments are you proudest of?
Well, picking a tenure track career is an important aspect of what I am happy I did. There was significant pressure for me to pick a lecturer track from my personal life and I am happy I took the more challenging route but even happier I pulled it off.
What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career?
Making sure multiple #1 priorities get attended to. I am not sure I completely handle it yet but I feel that it is a way of life I am ready for.
Please tell us a little about your family.
I have a daughter (12) and a son (9). They are a funny pair and keep me laughing. I like having a lighthearted relationship with them and enjoy all the things that I get into through them. As I play baseball and learn Pokemon, I find equal delight as I do with learning about mechanics and materials....
What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals?
My short term goals are to keep family first and career on track. In the long term, as my children get older and leave for college, I anticipate an increased focus on work and hope to take a sabbatical and explore new collaborations.
What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices?
My mother, who while someone who never finished college, was an amazing success in the family + work balance. My uncle who responded to my decision to go into creative writing with a mild "hmm, you could be an engineer". A Dad of a friend who said "Communicate with technical language and assurance so that people buy into the depth of what you are saying". Places like EngineerGirl! have influenced me a lot. I like listening to people who have done and surmounted what appear as challenges to me. In summary I seek my heroes in daily interactions and appreciate the humanness of personal stories.
What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering?
Explore engineering beyond any of the stereotypical ways it is described. Areas such as robotics, materials, biomedical, environmental put engineering in a new light. That being said, I am partial to doing core areas such as mechanical, electrical, civil and chemical as undergraduate degrees and doing electives and senior projects in the other jazzy programs.
Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book.
Hmm. I love reading. I just read The Secret Life of Bees. I typically unwind after a major deadline with a book. I am very fortunate that the "staff choices" at my local public library are so wonderful because I tend to pick a few and have been enjoying them. I love exploring new music and cooking something I am unfamiliar with. I share music and cooking with my kids. I love to exercise and this seems to be a key to keeping my energy up to what needs to get done.