Engineering Education Consultant, Doctoral Candidate
Meagan Pollock Consulting, Purdue University
What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
At 18, I sat in the biology lab chatting about the future with one of my favorite teachers, Mrs. Reeves. A quiet interruption, my other favorite teacher, Mrs. Estes, walks in from the chemistry lab to speak with Mrs. Reeves. Pardoning the interruption, she began to describe this program that Texas Instruments (TI) was trying to begin to encourage women to become engineers. You see, her cousin worked as a professor at Texas Woman’s University (TWU), and was involved with writing the grant and proposing the program. The objective of the program was to offer fellowships to math and computer science majors at TWU to then encourage them to pursue a master’s level degree in electrical engineering. All the while, having a partnership with TI throughout their education for internship experience.
Mrs. Estes said to me, “Meagan, you’d be a perfect candidate for this program!” I laughed without a second thought (why would I want to go to a women’s university?!) and excused myself from the room. About half-way down the hall I stopped dead in my tracks… I’d applied to a dozen schools, been accepted with mediocre scholarships for education and interior design, fields I had no true to desire to pursue… It was as if time froze and forced me to reconsider. As I turned around there stood Mrs. Estes at the door. Before I could utter a word, she said, “My cousin’s name is Dr. Hargrave.”
I called TWU and the grant hadn’t gone through yet, so they weren’t considering applicants. Being a somewhat ambitious overachiever, I made my own application, essay included, and sent it to TWU. Within a few weeks, after a couple of follow-up phone calls, the department invited me to come visit the campus and meet the professors of the department. After touring a while, we settled in the department chair’s office to wrap up the visit. Dr. Edwards finished typing something and it began to print. He handed me a letter in which I then read silently. It was a letter offering me a full-ride to TWU. Dr. Edwards replied, “Meagan, we don’t have the money from the TI grant yet, but we want you to join us here and will make certain you are taken care of.” Graciously, I accepted… and the rest is history.
In summary, even though I liked math, science, and computer science, I never considered a career in these fields until I was encouraged by a teacher, and provided the opportunity to pursue a future in STEM through a scholarship. Educators, parents, and STEM professionals alike have a tremendous responsibility to encourage young women to consider careers in engineering, technology, as well as science and math. In addition, we can work together to break down barriers and build pathways for young women in STEM.
What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Coolest Engineering Project: My master’s thesis (2007) and subsequent research while practicing as an engineer was a study of the permeation & diffusion of moisture through the window bondline adhesive for the digital micromirror device (DMD), the key component in the Digital Light Processing (DLP) system. You are probably most familiar with this technology at your local digital cinema, but there are also incredible applications for medical devices that help people! The DLP projection system is comprised of a light source, optics, signal formatting processors and electronics, a color application (color wheel, LEDs, or lasers), and the DMD device. My research study learning about how moisture permeates and affects the DMD helped to enable new markets for DLP in smaller devices like cell phones, and portable medical devices.
Coolest Engineering Education Project: My dissertation research is a multiple case study analysis of high school females’ experiences in engineering, with consideration of the influences of their gender, race, and class. The literature identifies that gender, race, and class influences experiences, and that this intersection is important to understand. However, it has not been explored among females in high school engineering. Insights gleaned from case studies can directly influence policy, procedures, future research, as well as improve or enhance learning and teaching. The goal of the study is to richly describe the diversity of females’ experiences in engineering. Then, a cross-case analysis of the participants will provide a stronger and more compelling characterization, representative of the true diversity of experiences among high school females in engineering courses. The findings will inform curriculum developers and educators, improving the instruction of engineering for female students, and thus positively influencing the disparity in the field.
Tegwin Pulley is a champion for diversity and has been a pioneer and advocate for women since the 60s. She is a role model and mentor to me for her commitment to the community, and to providing access, and equity for all.
Wanda Gass is a retired Fellow of Texas Instruments, and she was one of the first women to be named to this high technical distinction at TI. She excelled as a female engineer in an environment that was not welcoming to her. She is a role model and mentor.
Why do you love working in STEM?
Careers in STEM are exciting and diverse! As an engineer, I believe I am a trained problem solver and prepared to tackle almost anything. I love collaborating with smart and creative people, and I love knowing I am making a difference in the world!
Advice for future STEMinists?
Women make great engineers, and engineers are our future. Don’t be intimidated, and don’t give up! Encourage and support other women and girls in STEM, and believe that you can and will succeed, too. Finally, find a mentor and advocate to help you navigate your way, and don’t ever be afraid to ask for help!
http://engineeryourlife.org/ – a guide to engineering for high school girls, with tools for parents and counselors too! See videos and read stories of real women engineers.
http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/science_careers.shtml – Want to know more about careers in science, technology, engineering, or math? Browse through detailed information on over 100 careers to discover what scientists really do and what it takes to prepare for these careers. Each career profile provides basic career information such as salary, job outlook, degree requirements, etc. They have also included videos featuring interviews with real scientists or on the job profiles.
http://www.teachengineering.org/ – The TeachEngineering digital library provides teacher- tested, standards-based engineering content for K-12 teachers to use in science and math classrooms. Engineering lessons connect real-world experiences with curricular content already taught in K-12 classrooms.