Dr. Jennifer Andrew Professor, Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Dr. Jennifer Andrew received her PhD in Materials Science from the University of California at Santa Barbara. Currently, she is a professor and researcher in the UF Materials Science and Engineering department, where she specializes in nanomaterials for applications in electronics and medicine. Her academic areas of interest include biomaterials, drug delivery, nanomaterials, multiferroics, and polymers. When she isn’t in the lab or classroom, she enjoys the outdoors and competing in triathlons!
What was your journey in becoming an engineer? Initially I enrolled at Northwestern University my freshman year as a civil engineer. However in my first semester, I took a seminar class called “Materials Science on Electron Microscopy”. Within two weeks we were doing hands-on work in the lab. I loved it and quickly switched to Materials Science. When senior year came, I was heavily involved in research. My advisor encouraged me to attend graduate school, so I headed west to UC-Santa Barbara where I started working on ceramic nanomaterials. Throughout my career as a engineer, I have worried less about the specific projects and fitting them perfectly into my previous experiences, and more on the greater application and the excitement I have about discovering new science and material applications.
What advice do you have for girls starting in engineering? Don’t be afraid to take courses just because it has a bad reputation! A lot of times, you’ll hear certain subject are stigmatized because of how hard they are or whatever, but those are a lot of the times the ones you need the most. In school, I had this sort of fear to take organic chemistry because of the reputation it had, but here I am now teaching the organic chemistry class in the materials department, and the information in that class is critical to developing polymeric nanomaterials for biomedical applications.
What are you working on currently and excited about now? Well I’m currently working on nanomaterials for electronics and drug delivery as my main focus, which ends up being a lot of fun. Over the summer I organized a conference for biomagnetic nanoparticles in Telluride, Colorado. I had a lot of combining science with outdoor adventures! Often the best projects and collaborations come from the informal hikes and mountain bike rides with your colleagues!
To contact Dr. Andrew, visit http://andrew.mse.ufl.edu -Kimmai Tran, Corresponding Secretary
Dr. Jennifer A. Rice Assistant Professor, Department of Civil & Coastal Engineering
Dr. Rice is an associate professor within the Department of Civil Engineering. Her specialization within the field of Civil Engineering is structures. She came to University of Florida in 2011.
Prior to going to college Dr. Rice was not sure what she wanted to do. She had landed on the idea of engineering because like many of us she knew she was good at math and science and wanted a stable and well-paying career. Then she choose civil engineering because of an uncle who was a civil engineer. The one thing that is most interesting though is that despite having that uncle she still randomly choose civil engineering not knowing if she would love it but has never regretted the decision.
Dr. Rice started her academic career at Texas Tech for her bachelors then went to University of Illinois Urbana Champaign for her Masters and Ph.D. She choose the path of academia after being given a research position at Texas Tech as an undergrad. She got the position by handing her resume to a lady standing at the door to a Career Fair at Texas Tech. At the time she did not know why the lady was collecting resumes, she assumed the college was just collecting resumes at the door for their own purposes. Then after conducting the research for the professor she thought about what his job entailed. Her thoughts were that she liked the idea of freedom a professor has with researching and that she had experience helping other students with school (she had tutored as an undergrad).
Prior to University of Florida she was a professor at Texas Tech, her alma mater. She came to University of Florida because she was contacted by the head of the ESSIE department about a potential job offer. The job offer was that they needed a professor who had an interest in sensors that were used to monitor structures. Her research as a grad student and after leaving school was doing sensory research so she decided to take a chance and come visit. She choose to come after meeting the high energy staff and students here at University of Florida. You know that saying that people are everything. Here is one more person proving that that is actually true. That being said her favorite part about her job here at UF is working with her students. She particularly likes working with her grad students because of the one on one interaction. She likes watching her grad students develop over the course of their project especially regarding them meeting their full potential.
Dr. Rice’s research primarily deals with working with sensors and data algorithms to improve the way we manage infrastructure. Specifically with aging infrastructure to monitor potential failures and find ways to fix them before they become an issue. Her research provides a way to manage resources that we currently have by ensuring that the infrastructure that is most likely to fail first gets fixed first.
She also has a shake table that has six degrees of freedom. The shake table is used to produce similar effects of an earthquake. Prior to coming to UF she did some extreme condition work and the shake table while not her primary research allows her to do some of that work and research as well. The shake table also allows research to be done on what happens in the long run to a building that is put in this environment and under the stress. The shake table can also help develop sensors for these buildings so the sensors can detect damage after an earthquake event. She also will be working on wind effects from a hurricane this semester.
She also shared some tips for success. Her first being that always be willing to listen to others around you. She said that she learns constantly from her colleagues and from her student. Also beyond the learning experiences you never know when an opportunity will present itself for you by simply listening to someone else. Another really important thing is to not doubt yourself. Too often in engineering people think they cannot do something but they actually can. You can tackle anything you put your mind to if you have trust in your abilities to finish what you are doing. Believing in yourself will also ultimately help reduce the stress and anxiety you feel while pursuing engineering.
To contact Dr. Rice, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. -Brittni Black, Treasurer
Dean Angela S. Lindner Associate Dean for Student Affairs, Associate Professor | Department of Environmental Engineering Sciences
The road that lead Dean Lindner to her position as an Associate Dean for the College of Engineering at UF inspires. Dean Linder grew up in Orangeburg, South Carolina and received her B.S. degree in Chemistry. When asked what inspired her to pursue engineering, she replied that during a break from her lab, she was walking the hallway when she saw an advertisement on a bulletin board about becoming a Chemical Engineer at Texas A&M through their master’s program. She laughed recalling that the advertisement made the pursuit sound easy. She didn't really know what engineering was at the time and decided to go for it. Two weeks later she was at Texas A&M. Later Dean Lindner started as a Chemical Engineer at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This position started her path towards being connected to the environment; she realized that engineers can create positive regulations for the environment. After working there for two and half years, Dean Lindner was recruited by General Motors. This position gave her greater insight into the relationship between industry and government—it’s always adversarial. She worked in International Regulations for General Motors which opened up her insights into the world. She had the opportunity to work with other engineers in different countries and gained some perspective on their cultures. There were challenges with communication which inspired her to begin learning Japanese. After working with General Motors for 3 years, Dean Lindner wanted to teach college students. She was offered a fellowship from the Department of Education for Women at the University of Michigan. This is where she started her PhD work in Environmental and Civil Engineering. Her dissertation topic focused on bioremediation and characterizing microorganisms within the environment. She learned more about sustainability through this opportunity. In 1998, Dean Lindner moved to Florida and began teaching Chemistry at the University of Florida. After leaving the University of Michigan, she had the choice between Texas A&M and UF. She chose UF because of the fierce appreciation for quality teaching in undergraduate courses. In 2008, Dean Lindner began her job as an Associate Dean for the College of Engineering at UF. She wanted the students to have a strong advocate. When asked what her best advice would be to women in engineering, she replied that students should maintain a balance between work, family, and personal time throughout their lives. She suggested that students maintain support systems through friends, families, and mentors. She said that you have to take care of yourself before you can be good to others. It’s never too late.
To contact Dean Lindner, e-mail email@example.com. - Abby Mahfood, Vice-President of External Affairs
Dr. Daniela Oliveira Associate Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering
Although already having been at UF since August, Daniela Oliveira has already begun to find a community here at UF. Oliveira was brought into UF from Bodin College in Maine as part of the UF Preeminence Program.
“I was recruited by the ECE department, came down and liked it here and I jumped at the opportunity,” Oliveira said. “It’s been great. There have been a lot of things to get used to, I had to transfer my lab and my grant, so there is a lot of work that needs to be done this first semester, but other than that it has been great.”
Oliveira realized that she was interested in computer engineering at a young age before coming to the United States.
“In Brazil, where I am from, when you go to college you do not get accepted to college and get to experiment in what major you want,” Oliveira said. “You take an entrance exam and on that exam you have to tell you major. At that time I declared computer science and for me everything worked out well.”
Oliveira decided on her specialty within computer science, cyber security, almost ten years ago. “I think cyber security has a huge impact on society and what can be done to society,” Oliveira said. Her current research within cyber security is a collaboration between the psychology and engineering departments.
“I am working with a psychology professor and we are investigating the effect of social engineering attacks in two groups, the elderly and young adults,” Oliveira said. “Our hypothesis is that the elderly will become a target of social engineering attacks. The [elderly] population is increasing, they have lots of assets managed online, and with time, unfortunately, we lose some of our cognitive abilities.”
In addition to her research, Oliveira is also teaching. “I really like to teach and have interaction with the students. To teach them and learn from them.” Oliveira said. “Right now I am teaching programming for electrical and computer engineers, an undergraduate course. It’s a good mix of students.” Overall, Oliveira wants both faculty and students to understand how the importance of collaboration in engineering.
“I think some women think that engineering, and specifically computer engineering, is something that is nerdy and isolated, that you just sit at your computer and program,” Oliveira said. “I’d like to advise them that this is not at all true. You sometimes have to sit and program, but engineering is interdisciplinary. It forces you connect with all related fields. It is about teamwork. With engineering you can have a huge impact on society.
To contact Dr. Oliveira, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. - Erin Winick, President
Dr. Wenhsing Wu Lecturer, Electrical & Computer Engineering Department
“Don’t be afraid of engineering. You will find a good job that fits your style.”
Dr. Wenhsing Wu is a Lecturer for the department of Electrical & Computer Engineering and has been an IPPD Coach for the span of 10 years at the University of Florida. Growing up with strong female role models, Dr. Wu never felt discouraged in pursuing any S.T.E.M. fields. Both her mother and her older sister were involved with S.T.E.M. careers and this help eliminate any fear from forming when it came time to pursue her degree. After receiving her undergraduate degree in Electro-physics, Dr. Wu worked in the industry for one year before she realized that higher education was for her. Her M.S. Degree in Electrical Engineering gave her the freedom to take on more technical tasks. “You get a much higher level of work done with a Master’s Degree.” She strongly encourages women to pursue higher education. She has spent over 10 years working in the industry.
While in the industry she worked as a Failure Analyst and manufacturing hard drives, where she worked hands-on with micro-electronics. Her hands-on nature is apparent in both her work environment and in her personal life. In her spare time, Dr. Wu enjoys tatting, sewing, and baking- all hobbies which she labels as “girl-stuff”. The Circuit Board Magnifier Glass which she for her work is the same magnifier which she using for her tatting hobby.
Now as a teacher, she had to adjust her work-life balance to account for all her responsibilities. A mother of two, Dr. Wu said that she loves being allowed more time with her family. “The industry values family life so you can always find a balance point. Don’t be afraid that you can’t handle it.” Her experience in the industry gave her an upper hand when working with the IPPD groups. “IPPD helps train students –similar to internships- and with presentation and time management skills.” Her advice to all students is to be prepared to work in teams. When faced with a problem, don’t emphasize on personal problems, focus on the systematic problems in your work. When you have questions, first attempt to answer your own questions with multiple solutions before you ask your questions. When working on a project, instead of asking others “What do I do next?”, ask yourself “What do I want to do next?”. And always be ready for the next job! “Don’t be afraid of engineering. You will find a good job that fits your style.”
Dr. Chelsey S. Simmons, PhD Assistant Professor Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, College of Engineering
“Engineering is not all about crunching numbers anymore.”
Dr. Chelsey Simmons is new to the UF MAE Department this year, but is by no means new to Gainesville. Simmons grew up in the Gainesville area, but then left to receive her undergrad degree from Harvard and her masters and PHD from Stanford. However, after this long period away, Simmons is excited to be back.
“One of the things of the biggest things that brought me back to UF was the excellence of the department,” Simmons said. “People assume to a large degree that it’s because it’s my home town and I wanted to be with my family and of course those things are true, but that’s not where I started. I wanted to live somewhere with a young vibrant population. I wanted a large department. I needed a fancy well established nanofab for my research and I wanted to be collocated with a medical school which is actually very rare.”
In addition to UF having an impact on her current research, the university played a big part in the start of her engineering career.
“In middle school I actually went to the [UF] College of Engineering E-Day,” Simmons said. “At that point it was at the O’Dome and I went around to all the booths and saw people building bridges and the concrete canoe and all the crazy things that engineers did. I went home and, I guess I was 12 at the time, and told my mom, ‘This is great. I’m good at science and I’m good at math. And my job can be to just build stuff all day long. So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to be an engineer.’”
From that point on Simmons knew the field she wanted to enter and pursued many different programs and mentors to build on her knowledge and solidify what she wanted to do within the field of engineering. This included high school robotics camp, seeking out local mentors and working in a UF biomedical research lab in high school.
“From middle school, when I declared I was going to be an engineer, through high school, my parents were really supportive and helped me find people from within UF and the community to ask questions of who were very helpful with their guidance,” Simmons said.
Seeking out mentors have been a big part of Simmons success throughout her career. Simmons says that self-motivation to utilize resources around you to make decisions is one of the biggest keys to undergraduate success.
“I’m part of that transition generation into helicopter parenting and so I sort of escaped it and was expected to register for classes, get my oil changed and pick out apartments on my own,” Simmons said. “It seems like silly little things, figuring out car repairs and such, but it’s those type of decisions and managing those things yourself where you get practice dealing with complex challenges in industry or research and figuring out what you want to do with your career.”
Simmons says she has been able to use this to her advantage and not let being in the minority in engineering get in her way. Looking at the shortage of women in engineering, she says the way to get more girls interested in the field is twofold.
“We need to portray engineering as the creative multi-faceted profession that it really is. Engineering is not all about crunching numbers anymore,” Simmons said. “There is a lot going on in engineering that requires excellent communication skills, extremely high levels of creativity and business management skills. Also, I think as a society we’re letting young girls think that a lack of experience makes them stupid. As a culture we don’t involve young girls in things we traditionally consider engineering and the other piece of that is what is traditionally considered engineering is not true of today’s real engineering jobs.”
To contact Dr. Simmons email email@example.com. -Erin Winick, Recording Secretary
Dr. Christine Schmidt Chair of J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering
Dr. Schmidt started at UF in January 2013, and has been reshaping the department of Biomedical Engineering ever since, as well as continuing her research into novel biomaterials that interact with the nervous system to help regenerate damaged tissue. Basically internal wound healing with a focus on spinal cord injuries.
She graduated from high school with no idea of what she wanted to do. She started at the University of Texas at Austin as an undecided major. When asked why she went into engineering, she told me of a mentoring program that the University of Texas offered to students who were undecided. She randomly got paired with Dr. Bill Koros, who just happened to be a professor in the department of Chemical Engineering. He got to know her and realized her potential and saw that she would make a wonderful engineer. She ended up graduating from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering, in 1988. Before she graduated, Dr. Schmidt started undergrad research and helping other students succeed in engineering by tutoring them. She found that she loved her research which made her want to pursue her graduate degree, but she also loved the feeling that tutoring gave her while she helped other students learn, and she felt she could give back to those people who helped her succeed by helping the people after her succeed. She ended up going to the University of Illinois and received her PhD in Chemical Engineering in 1995.
Before coming to UF Dr. Schmidt worked at UT Austin as a professor. She helped build the Biomedical Program up at UT Austin during her 16 years there, working her way from an Assistant Professor to a Professor by the time she left. Dr. Schmidt decided to come to UF because she felt things had stale mated during her last couple years at UT Austin and she got too comfortable in her environment. She said she had heard about UF’s new undergraduate degree in Biomedical Engineering, and she felt that it was highly underrated. “The University of Florida is a large school, with the tools to have their Biomed Program amongst the top 10 in the nation. We have the physical proximity to everything from Pharmaceuticals to Dentistry to Medical to even a strong background in entrepreneurship for start up companies. There was no reason the UF BME program wasn’t in the top 10 of the nation, except the lack of a strong leader to bring it there.” When things started slowing at UT and the opportunity to come to UF and be the chair of the Biomed program presented itself, she said it was just the right move for her. “Everything fit into place. UF already had a program, so I wouldn’t be starting from the bottom, she could continue her research, and she could build the Biomed Program to what she thought it should be.” Thus starting her career at UF in January 2013.
Dr. Schmidt is really enjoying her new role as a chair. She never expected the amount of trust people would put in her, and the amount of people interactions she has on a daily basis. She has learned a lot about herself as well as the actions of other people. Which has shaped her into an even better leader. She said a good leader is one who has confidence in their decisions, and the confidence to put themselves out there and not be bashful. To be a good leader one must be able to communicate their ideas and their views clearly to another person as well as be able to take the time to listen to what other people have to say. “Leadership is all about having the skills to problem solve, but not just normal problem solving, people problem solving.”
As our conversation was coming to an end, Dr. Schmidt shared some last advice about being a woman in a male dominated world. Being a woman in a male dominated world she has spotted differences in how women and men react to situations. Women tend to internalize their feelings and blame themselves, where men tend to blame everyone but themselves for things that go wrong. Women need to learn that what they feel is just as important as what a man feels, and that most everyone is thinking the same thing. In order to succeed you need three things, the first being excellent communication skills. There isn’t a job in the world that doesn’t require the ability to communicate a task or idea clearly to another person, and a person’s ability to communicate how they are feeling is crucial, because if you internalize it no one knows how you feel, and no one will ever know. The second thing being, persistence. The difference between someone successful and someone unsuccessful is the successful one had the resilience to continue what they were doing when things got tough. “I remember a couple times in my undergrad years, where I couldn’t get through the day without caffeine. I would take a no doze followed by a diet coke, just to stay awake.” The third thing to success is humility.
Everyone is going to make mistakes, you must be able to take them with stride, learn from them, but be able to move on from them.
Dr. Nancy J. Ruzychi Faculty Lecturer, Director of Undergraduate Laboratories-Material Science and Engineering
“I am thankful for the mentors, both male and female, that I have had in my career who helped me push my knowledge, shaped and supported my career goals.”
Dr. Nancy Ruzychi is a lecturer and the director of undergraduate laboratories for the Department of Material Science and Engineering. In high school, Dr. Ruzychi wanted to be a petroleum engineer and work on corrosion engineering. However, in the late 1980’s, this was not a great career path. Therefore, Dr. Ruzychi took four years of chemical engineering studies but took her degree in Chemistry and Education due to the low drop in the market for chemical engineers. Later, she took her Masters in Applied Physics and in 2003, she graduated with her PhD in Solid State Physics from Tulane University. Before moving to Florida, Dr. Ruzychi was working at the University of Washington and the Seattle Public Schools. When she moved to Florida in 2011, she worked for the Florida Department of Education as a STEM Instructional Specialist before joining the University of Florida in March 2013.
Dr. Ruzychi went into academia to try out new ways of teaching and instruction for higher education. She wanted to support the creation of better engineers, and realized that the way to do this was through better instruction. Dr. Ruzychi shifted from an all research focus to teaching ass he took her position at UF as a non-tenure track faculty member whose role is to focus on teaching undergraduate students. She enjoys being able to switch to an emphasis on teaching and being able to infuse her classes with the importance of research. In her labs, students are able to learn cutting edge research techniques like the Scanning Electron Microscope, X-Ray Diffraction, and Differential Scanning Calorimetry due to her research instrumentation background.
As most people may agree, Dr. Ruzychi believes that learning occurs differently for everyone. She also thinks that classes should be designed to reach and support the learning of all students at a high level. Her philosophy is to approach teaching as a research problem. “How can I most effectively present high level material in a relevant, and engaging way for students, so that they develop and apply knowledge.” Dr Ruzychi says that she is always learning from her students and she appreciates their patience with her as she tries new teaching and learning techniques.
Dr. Ruzychi says that being a leader is situational based on where one’s knowledge is a good fit for a given situation. She is thankful for her mentors, saying that good leaders are willing mentors who want their mentees to achieve at the highest levels.
“To struggle is okay for a while, to struggle constantly is an indication that something is wrong with the process.” Dr. Ruzychi reflects back to when she was an undergraduate working in a lab of an inorganic chemist making organometalic ligands. She recalled that one day she just ran out of knowledge and the professor told her to go to the library and look it up. After endlessly looking for a solution, she realized she had to stop struggling and instead, formulate the questions she needed to ask to change the process. She says that this lesson taught her how to self-reflect and how it helps keep things in perspective. Most importantly, Dr. Ruzychi encourages that balance is crucial to success. She says that a post-doc once told her she would never be successful in the laboratory because she had friends. It was because she had friends that made her succeed.
“We need to have a balance to be able to have perspective and be reflective on our work, and friendships help you through this.” She also advises that it is okay to not be good at everything; rather, know what your strengths are and hone in on them and know what your weaknesses are to work on closing the gaps. “Be confident that you can learn, and will learn.”
To contact Dr. Nancy Ruzychi, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org -Kelsey Gardner, Corresponding Secretary
Dr. Jennifer Sinclair Curtis Associate Dean for Research and Facilities, Distinguished Professor-Chemical Engineering
“There will always be someone who may not treat you the same, but ultimately if you continue to show that you’re a competent engineer then the rewards will come; people will recognize you. Are you going to focus on the one who doesn't treat you well? Or are you going to move on and move forward."
Dr. Curtis enjoyed math and science in high school and had the good fortune of having an excellent guidance counselor who suggested that she pursue engineering. She selected her favorite science, chemistry, as her focus, leading her into chemical engineering. As a junior and senior in college she was a teaching assistant for an algebra class and absolutely loved teaching and helping students learn, which is when she decided that she wanted to teach for her career. She also enjoyed doing research, guiding her into academia. UF’s particle engineering research center and chemical engineering department chair position lured her to move to Gainesville.
Dr. Curtis recently accepted a position as Associate Dean for Research and Facilities. The thing she enjoys most about this new role is helping professors win large grants for their research. Not only do these grants help to build UF’s research program, but they also bring national visibility to the College of Engineering which helps build the reputation of the college. Her advice to undergraduates is to make the most informed decisions you can, such as trying both a semester of undergraduate research and a semester internship before deciding whether you want to pursue graduate school or a career in industry. Once you make an informed decision, she encourages you to and a strong support system, because everyone needs a little help now and then.
“Get everyone on board with your decision and it will work out,” leading to a successful work Dr. Curtis strongly believes in not underestimating your abilities and to not be too critical on yourself. She also encourages people to step up to the plate and not wait for someone else to do the job for you; too many people are afraid to be leaders because they don’t want to accept the responsibilities which come along with leadership roles.
To contact Dr. Curtis, send an email to email@example.com -Elizabeth Volpe, VP Internal
Dr. Helena Hagelin-Weaver Chemical Engineering
Dr. Helena Hagelin-Weaver is an Assistant Professor in the Chemical Engineering Dept. here at UF, and SWE's faculty adviser. She always had a passion for chemistry and mathematics growing up, and found chemical engineering as the perfect way to combine the two. Dr. Weaver grew up in Sweden and attended the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. She came to UF to work on her post-doc and then began working here directly after.
Many female professors decide not to have children, but Dr. Weaver encourages rising female engineers not to let a full time career stop you if that is something you want. As a mother of two girls, she is able give insight on the balancing both family and career. While being a professor allows her flexibility, it also isn’t a 9-5 job; the work often follows her home. However, as a professor, you are able to choose the projects you work on and determine your schedule more than many careers.
She also encourages that there are many resources, including fellow professors, that she can use as a resource. Overall, though she never intended to follow the route of being a professor, she is very happy with her decision. Being a professor allows creativity and the chance to make what you want out of your career unlike most conventional paths.