Kathy A. Notarianni

Kathy A. Notarianni

Head, Department of Fire Protection Engineering, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Worcester, MA

Engineers!

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Close Up
  • What I Do
    I head a graduate program in a specialty area of fire and explosions. We offer masters and doctoral degrees to students who enter our program with a B.S. in mechanical, electrical, chemical, structural, or environmental engineering. I set curriculum, mentor and advise students, conduct research and teach. I work with a wide range of practitioners including architects, public building officials, codes and standards making bodies, and the fire service to provide a safe environment for people to live and work in.
  • Why Engineering?
    In high school I enjoyed chemistry and math, so I earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering. A better way to select a major is to find out what the job is like by talking to practicing engineers. Studying a subject in school is not the same as working in that field. Find out what motivates and satisfies you! For instance, although I enjoyed my chemistry classes, many chemical engineers are employed in the petrochemical, paper, or food industries. None of these appealed to me. I wanted a job with a more people-oriented focus.
  • School Days
    B.S. in Chemical Engineering. M.S. in Fire Protection Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. , M.S. and Ph.D. in Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University.
  • Challenges
    Most of the challenges are conquering "expectations" other people have for you. When I decided to pursue my advanced degrees, some people close to me commented that it seemed pointless since I would be "quitting to have children soon." Now, I have three lovely children and am going as strong as ever! Everyone has an expectation about you and for you. You have to figure out what you want which is not always clear or easy.
  • Additional Thoughts
    Everyone has an expectation about you and for you. You have to figure out what you want which is not always clear or easy.
  • Hobbies
    I love to cook (which many people find surprising)! They believe that since I'm dedicated to my profession, I must not be "domestic." I also love to garden, and to sing. I am told that I do not sing well, so I sing loud. My other loves are biking, hiking, the beach, the theater, and reading.
Biography
Kathy heads a graduate program in a specialty area of fire and explosions. She sets curriculum, mentors and advises students, conducts research and teaches. Kathy works with a wide range of practitioners including architects, public building officials, codes and standards making bodies, and the fire service to provide a safe environment for people to live and work in. Previously, Kathy was a project leader in the Building and Fire Research Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology where her work focused on issues relating to smoke detection, water-based suppression, smoke plume analysis, and fire model verification with applications to high ceiling-height buildings, hospitals, environmentally friendly halon fire suppressants, and residential fire sprinkler systems. Kathy says, "I enjoy research because it involves a variety of tasks. I may spend one day in my hard hat and steel toe boots and the next in a suit.." Much of her research is incorporated into national safety standards. Kathy is a licensed professional engineer, a fellow in the Society of Fire Protection Engineers, and has mentored hundreds of high school and college students interested in engineering careers. One of Kathyyâ€s most noteworthy accomplishments is United States Patent #5,103,212, Balanced Fluid Flow Delivery System, a life-saving technology utilized in high value and mission critical areas such as NASAAâ€s control rooms and other facilities around the world. Kathy's notoriety led to her selection to head a government commission to study building egress in the wake of the World Trade Center collapse. She is currently working on a $3 million Department of Homeland Security grant in the area of firefighter safety and allocation of resources. Kathy is well-published professionally in the archival literature and nationally in print and television media. Her "fire safety mom's tips" were quoted in Good Housekeeping Magazine. On an international stage, Dr. Kathy Notarianni is well known and has been invited to speak or conduct research in over a dozen countries including England, Sweden, Iceland, and Japan. In one instance during these engagements, she conducted high-bay fire experiments at a NATO base in Keflicvick, Iceland that lead to the development of fire safety standards in high bay facilities used by NASA and the U.S. Navy. Kathy has presented her research at international conferences at Oxford University and Cambridge University. Beyond her work in academic and professional circles, Kathy devotes a great deal of her time to serving others. Kathy conducts workshops and symposiums for middle and high school girls to introduce them to engineering through hands-on activities. In the local community, she leads a Girl Scout troop and teaches CCD. She has also hosted numerous fundraisers at her house to provide tens of thousands of meals for the Worcester food bank.
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Volunteer Opportunities
  • I am willing to host a field trip to my place of employment.
  • I am willing to be interviewed by interested students via email.
  • I am willing to answer written interview questions to be posted on the EngineerGirl website.
  • I am willing to participate in a conference call with a group of interested students who would like to know about my career.
  • I am willing to create an article or short feature about my some aspect of my career for the website.