Anne Spence
Dr Anne Spence
Professor of the Practice, University of Maryland Baltimore County
MD

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Close Up
  • Describe what you do in your current work situation.
    Currently, I am a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at UMBC. I teach freshman engineering design to students who have just completed high school and started college. In that course, we learn about the things engineers need to make them successful. We also build something like a hot air balloon, a chemically powered car or a water balloon launcher. In the summer I teach your teachers how to teach engineering in the middle school. They learn how to build air-powered cars, marble sorters and catapults. Sometimes I do reasearch to try to figure out what gets girls interested in engineering and what keeps them in engineering in college. But the best part is talking to students about why I think engineering is a cool career!
  • Why did you choose engineering?
    When I was a little girl, I launched model rockets in the backyard. I thought it was a lot of fun to build the rocket, launch it and try to catch it when it came back down. My dad would take me flying in our airplane and I loved taking the controls and flying around. In elementary and middle school, I really liked math and science, but the best part was that I liked being better at it than most of the boys in my class. In college, I first wanted to be a computer scientist, but then I worked on designing parts of ships by using a wind-tunnel and I got hooked on Aerospace Engineering. I was a much better engineer than a computer scientist!
  • Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have?
    I got my Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Missouri-Rolla (soon to be called the Missouri Institute of Science and Technology), my Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas-Arlington and my PhD in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Maryland-College Park.
  • What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work?
    After I graduated from college, I went to work for Bell Helicopter in Texas. The best part of my job was that I got to go down to the flight testing facility and fly in the helicopters to learn more about how they flew. Then I would design flight simulators that flew like the real helicopter. I even got to fly the helicopter once! That was really cool!
  • What do you like best about being an engineer?
    The best part about being an engineer is coming across a challenge or problem that needs to be solved. I put on my thinking cap and, using all of the training I have, I design a solution. It is even more fun when you work on a team with other people to solve the problem! Then you get the benefit of everyone's experience and knowledge.
  • Which of your career accomplishments are you proudest of?
    I think the best part about being an engineer is that I can have a family as well. I am most proud of my family - my husband and two boys. A second runner up would be that I was the first woman to receive a PhD in Aerospace Engineering in Rotorcraft at the University of Maryland.
  • What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career?
    A few of the professors that I had in college told me that women should not be engineers, so I proved them wrong by being the top student in their class. When I started work, I had to work with some guys who thought women could not be engineers. I worked hard and did my best and soon they wanted me to be the handling qualities engineer on all of their projects!
  • Please tell us a little about your family.
    My husband is a mechanical engineer and my father was an aerospace engineering professor - I even had him for 3 classes - ugh! I have two middle school aged boys who love to play soccer and lacrosse. They are also interested in LEGO Robotics.
  • What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals?
    I hope to become a tenured professor in the next couple of years - that means that I can continue to teach at the university for many years to come. In the long-term, I would like to become an associate dean of engineering so that I can focus on recruiting and retaining women in engineering.
  • What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices?
    I guess that my mom and dad influeced me the most since they always told me that I could do anything that I wanted to do. Sally Ride is pretty cool, too!
  • What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering?
    My best advice - don't let anyone stop you. Try to find a woman engineer that will coach you through the tough times. Keep taking math and science in school and don't let the boys do all of the fun hands-on stuff!
  • Any other stories or comments you would like to share with EngineerGirl visitors?
    My best advice - don't let anyone stop you.
  • Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book.
    I like to watch movies, read, play soccer and volleyball, and travel with my family.
Volunteer Opportunities
  • I am willing to be contacted by educators for possible speaking engagements in schools or in after school programs or summer camps.
Latest Questions
  • Beatrice

    Added Wednesday, March 1, 2017 at 4:02 PM

    I'm in the second year of my aerospace degree and despite doing well in my courses and enjoying and understanding the material, I feel like I'm not good enough to be a good engineer. Being the only girl in my class I feel doubtful when i see so many other students knowing exactly what they want to do and where and why, while I don't even know a lot about what I'm going to do with my degree... Help?
    Answers 1
    Anne Spence, University of Maryland Baltimore County
    Answered Monday, May 15, 2017 at 12:44 PM
    My dear, Beatrice.
    It is not unusual for you to feel this way. Trust me when I say that very few of the guys in your class have these feelings and they are most likely getting much poorer grades than you are! As women, we often must fight against the ...
    Read More
  • Nkosinomusa, Graduate Engineer/ Bulawayo Zimbabwe

    Added Tuesday, March 22, 2016 at 9:23 AM

    I graduated with a BSc Aeronautical Engineering degree but have failed to get employment as an engineer. Have always wanted to be an engineer from the time i was a young girl. How do I keep relevant without being employed as an engineer? Is pursuing a masters the right step or will this completely take me out of the job market and make me unemployable? How can I secure employment in this environment Regards
    Answers 1
    Anne Spence, University of Maryland Baltimore County
    Answered Tuesday, March 22, 2016 at 9:23 AM
    Great question! You will definitely BE EMPLOYABLE with a masters degree. It is becoming more important in the aerospace industry. Also check in with folks that you know to make sure that your resume looks good. Ask for advice on your interviewing style. ...
    Read More
  • Rahul, Sri Lanka, Colombo

    Added Wednesday, April 22, 2015 at 11:49 AM

    I'm Rahul. I just want to clarify the fact that I'm a commerce student and I love air craft engineering but the problem is that I'm a commerce student :'/ so I just wanted to know that is there any other alternative way that I could do aircraft engineering as commerce student?
    Answers 1
    Anne Spence, University of Maryland Baltimore County
    Answered Wednesday, April 22, 2015 at 11:49 AM
    Hi, Rahul.
    Most of the aerospace engineering courses require a lot of Calculus and physics. It would be impossible for a student with a commerce degree to be hired as an aerospace engineer. You could consider a Master's degree from Embry ...
    Read More
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