Elisabeth Drake

"Talk to engineers about their jobs -- and see if the types of things they do seem exciting. Hard work, lots of travel, teamwork, and a lot of opportunities are often part of it. If you love science and math, this is a good way to have a rewarding career."

INTERVIEW DATE August 10, 2007
HER JOB Emeritus Staff, MIT
Engineering Careers
Chemical |

I wanted a profession that would allow lots of variety and real-world problem solving.

ADDEDFriday, August 10, 2007

  • Q
    Describe what you do in your current work situation?
    A
    Though I am officially retired, I still team teach a graduate course at MIT on Sustainable Energy and participate in a variety of professional activities relating to engineering and environmental issues.
  • Q
    Why did you choose engineering?
    A
    I wanted a profession that would allow lots of variety and real-world problem solving.
  • Q
    Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have?
    A
    Got a SB in Chemical Engineering at MIT. After working for 6 years after graduation, I returned to MIT for a doctorate degree - so I would be able to teach as well as practice engineering.
  • Q
    What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work?
    A
    Worked for a consulting company on many projects around the world related to energy production and transportation. Became interested in ways to manage safety and environmental performance using risk evaluation techniques.
  • Q
    What do you like best about being an engineer?
    A
    Got a real sense of accomplishment in meeting a variety of challenges and seeing projects developed and built. Enjoyed working as part of a team where I could learn a lot from colleagues with different backgrounds.
  • Q
    Which of your career accomplishments are you proudest of?
    A
    Collaborating with some other MIT experts to develop a comprehensive course on energy options for the future and tools that can be used to find better pathways to a future energy system that is socially and environmentally sound
  • Q
    What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career?
    A
    Started as an engineer when girls in the profession were unusual -- have enjoyed seeing more women enter the field and succeed professionally. Had some problems along the way, but learned that life sometimes brings new opportunities when I am open to changes
  • Q
    Please tell us a little about your family.
    A
    Only child of two professional parents who always worked hard. Married an electrical engineer - marriage eventually failed because of my work addiction and misuse of alcohol. Now am happy with a life full of friends and adventures.
  • Q
    What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals?
    A
    Learning new things in the short term -- the long term will evolve!
  • Q
    What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices?
    A
    Had some great teachers when I was in high school who challenged me to try things that seemed  difficult.
  • Q
    What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering?
    A
    Talk to engineers about their jobs -- and see if the types of things they do seem exciting. Hard work, lots of travel, teamwork, and a lot of opportunities are often part of it. If you love science and math, this is a good way to have a rewarding career.
  • Q
    Any other stories or comments you would like to share with EngineerGirl visitors?
    A
    Talk to engineers about their jobs -- and see if the types of things they do seem exciting. Hard work, lots of travel, teamwork, and a lot of opportunities are often part of it. If you love science and math, this is a good way to have a rewarding career.
  • Q
    Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book.
    A
    Like music, gardening, animals... and doing volunteer work in prisons.