Panelists (left to right): Dr. Lisa Zidek, Dr. Tanya Kunberger, Dr. Ingrid Buckley, Dr. Ashley Danley-Thomson
Photo and Article courtesy of Nevon Moore
On Wednesday, the 7th of October, 2015, the Women in STEM organization (WiSTEM) allowed more than 40 young women, a wonderful opportunity to interact with some outstanding female faculty at their Women in Engineering Panel. The panel consisted of four female associate and assistant professors, representing the four disciplines of engineering offered here at FGCU.
The first member of the panel was Dr. Ashley Danley-Thomson, who is an Environmental Engineer. She spoke of how she decided to become an engineer when she got sick after swimming in a body of water, while on a service trip in Ghana. This made it clear to her, the importance of having clean water bodies and a clean and sustainable environment, conveying the critical impact that engineering has on the world and the boundless opportunities to effect change.
The next member of the panel was Dr. Ingrid Buckley. Though, she is one of the Assistant professors in the Software Engineering department, she initially wanted to pursue Mechanical Engineering. While studying, she noticed that, in preparation for both Mechanical and Software Engineering, classes were dominated by males. This trend also transcended to the work force, she said. Despite this, she encouraged attendees not to be intimidated and emphasized the availability of opportunities.
Also, a part of the panel was Dr. Tanya Kunberger, an associate professor of Civil Engineering at FGCU, though she initially aspired to be a lawyer. She fell in love with the field of engineering and currently has a Geo-Environmental focus. She continues her passion because she “loves dirt”.
The final member of the panel was Associate Dean of the Whittaker College of Engineering and Associate Professor in the department of Bioengineering, Dr. Lisa Zidek. She started her foray into engineering studies by being a Pre-Med Bioengineering major, which she eventually changed and obtained a Bachelor’s in Industrial Engineering. She continued with her maters and became a patent lawyer for a while. She then pursued her Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering, while working full time and having 3 children in the process. She emphasized the fact that, though challenging, the field of engineering should not be all consuming and that the young ladies can and should still have a prosperous life outside of their careers.
The Q&A segment allowed the young ladies to express their concerns, reservations and areas of curiosity to the panelists. It also allowed the panelists to relay wise words and good advice to these ladies. When asked “In the field of engineering what is the hardest thing to overcome?”, the panelists responded with 3 things: 1) your own fears, 2) how others see you vs. how you see yourself and 3) the stigma that engineering is ideally for males, though this is changing.
WiSTEM, led by Program coordinator and organizer of this event, Dr. Cara Brooks is a live-learn community, here at FGCU. It is comprised of 37 women, which live together in Palmetto hall. This panel was a part of their monthly programs and was cosponsored by the Society of Women Engineers. This panel, like all of their other programs and events, was geared toward giving the students an opportunity to interact with outstanding faucet and learn about study and service opportunities.