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Texas Tech Celebrates Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day

Female faculty and staff members in Whitacre College of Engineering share career experiences.

Written by Lauren Kozlovsky

Engineering may traditionally be a male-dominated field, but Texas Tech University is breaking down gender barriers and giving it a female focus. In conjunction with National Engineers Week, today (Feb. 20) is Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day.

At the Whitacre College of Engineering, female enrollment has risen from 12.9 percent in 2010 to 14.9 percent in 2013, in part through efforts of the following four women.

Audra Morse
Morse.

Morse

Title
Associate dean for undergraduate studies and professor

EducationBachelor of Science in environmental engineering; master’s of environmental engineering; doctorate in civil engineering, Texas Tech

  • What inspired you to become an engineer?

 A mentor at church suggested environmental engineering based on my favorite subjects in school, chemistry and biology, and an appreciation of math as a tool in my toolbox. My dad was a safety engineer.

  • How important is “Introducing a Girl to Engineering Day”?

Very important. We’ve been working in the College of Engineering to present the “softer” side of engineering to prospective students using new recruiting material. I believe viewing engineering from the female perspective as well as highlighting our fabulous femaile engineering role models is essential in converting “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day” into a future female engineer.

  • What advice would you give to aspiring female engineers?

You can do it. Women are just as capable at succeeding in math and science as men are. Don’t be afraid to ask ‘why?’ Maybe no one has ever thought to ask why before and there are great male and female role models to follow. Work hard and be yourself.

Michelle Pantoya
Pantoya.

Pantoya

Title
Professor and J.W. Wright Regents Chair

EducationBachelor of Science and master’s in aeronautical engineering; doctorate in mechanical engineering, University of California

  • What inspired you to become an engineer?

My father and all his creative pictures of outer space. He showed me “concept sketches” of projects he was working on during the Apollo projects and I was hooked. I went to a few air shows in San Diego and the fighter jets were the most impressive things I’d ever seen. I had to learn more about aeronautics and space; it was all just too exciting to pass up.

  • How important is “Introducing a Girl to Engineering Day”?

It is very important to introduce girls to what engineering and technology really are about. Kids think technology is something you plug into the wall, but there is far more than that to technology. Engineers use science and math to improve or make new technologies, things that solve a problem or fill a need. There is a little engineer in all of us. The creativity that is engineering comes from without our spirit and expressions, and girls have a lot to offer on that note.

  • What advice would you give to aspiring female engineers?

Keep a positive attitude and stay focused. There are a lot of hardships you will face along your path, but you can overcome all these obstacles with an attitude of persistence and perseverance. Don’t give up on your goals because a meaningful rewarding profession will keep you happy in all parts of life.

Zaida Gracia
Gracia.

Gracia

Title
Director of special projects; female engineers outreach

EducationBachelor of Science in mathematics, Universidad del Sagrado; master’s in science in mathematics, Michigan State University; currently working toward doctorate in higher education leadership, Texas Tech

  • What inspired you to become a mathematician?

I studied mathematics because I love the way nature can be modeled using an abstract language. It allows me to translate a real situation into a mathematical model and develop solutions to the model that will translate to solve the actual situation.

  • How important is “Introducing a Girl to Engineering Day” to you?

FLARE, female leadership, attraction and retention in engineering, was developed to increase women enrollment in the College of Engineering. “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day” is part of a great example of an activity that contributes to shift the perception of engineering, send the message that engineering is a great option for women, bring the opportunity to help the community and bring solutions for real life situations.

  • What advice would you give to aspiring female engineers?

Engineering is for you, you can do it and you will not be alone. You will graduate to start a career with a competitive salary and you will be able to find the balance between your personal and professional life as well.

Tanja Karp
Karp.

Karp

Title
Associate professor

Education
Master’s and doctorate in electrical engineering, Hamburg University of Technology, Germany

  • What inspired you to become an engineer?

As a high school student, I really enjoyed math and physics. I was looking for a career that included both subjects and provided the opportunity to work in industry and to design products that improve life quality. As a high school senior, I attended a university day that was particularly held for young women interested in engineering. I talked to first-year female engineer students to hear their point of view about this field of study. Both experiences encouraged me to pursue my studies in electrical engineering.

  • How important is “Introducing a Girl to Engineering Day”?

Engineers are oftentimes the invisible workforce whose achievements everyone tends to take for granted: mobile connectivity through cell phones, constant increase of capabilities in medical equipment, intelligent cars, safe transportation infrastructure with smart traffic lights. Without an active effort to introduce the young generation to engineering, they might not be aware of this career option. Most incoming engineering students have some personal connection to a professional engineer who influenced them in their career choice. Events like “Introduce a Girl to Engineering” or engineering outreach events like Get Excited About Robotics (GEAR) or BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology) robotics offer a connection to the profession, its importance in shaping the society we live in, and to build connections with engineers or engineering students. Women are still an underrepresented group in engineering and encouragement to consider this career field and the connection to role models can play an important role in increasing the number of female engineering students.

  • What advice would you give to aspiring female engineers?

Go for it and don’t let the guys intimidate you! Many of the young women who enroll in engineering majors oftentimes graduate among the top of their classes and it does not take any special superpower to do so.

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Whitacre College of Engineering
The Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering

The Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering has educated engineers to meet the technological needs of Texas, the nation and the world since 1925.

Approximately 4,300 undergraduate and 725 graduate students pursue bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees offered through eight academic departments: civil and environmental, chemical, computer science, electrical and computer, engineering technology, industrial, mechanical and petroleum.

Women in Science

The West Texas Association for Women in Science is a group of men and women that was founded in 2008 to support and encourage local women of all ages and career choices.

They have adopted the vision and mission of the National Association for Women in Science to envision a day when women will participate fully in science, technology, engineering and mathematics as manifested through equal opportunity, pay equity and recognition commensurate with their accomplishments.

Connect with the association on .

T-STEM Center
T-STEM

Texas - Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (T-STEM) is a major component of a Texas initiative to motivate and prepare more students for careers in STEM fields.

The mission of the Texas Tech T-STEM Center is to support educators in STEM disciplines by offering services and resources that support school districts and to teachers.

The center, created in 2006, has nearly $2.2 million in funding.