To honor Women's History Month, students, current faculty members, and alumni share what first interested them in mechanical engineering, advice to younger students, favorite parts about being a Lehigh engineer and what Women's History Month means to them. Please join us in celebrating these women.

Fatma Ayancik '19

Name: Fatma Ayancik  

 

Education: Doctor of Philosophy, Mechanical Engineering, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA, USA - August 2019 

Master of Science, Mechanical Engineering, TOBB ETU, Ankara, Turkey - August 2014 

Bachelor of Science, Mechanical Engineering, TOBB ET ̈U, Ankara, Turkey - August 2012 

 

Where are you from, and where do you currently reside?

I am from Ankara, Turkey and currently reside in Lausanne, Switzerland. 

 

What is your current professional position?

 I am a postdoctoral researcher at the Unsteady Flow Diagnostics Laboratory (UNFoLD) at Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). 

 

How did you first get interested in mechanical engineering?

I should thank my father for that. We never called a technician or used guarantee options to fix something broken, including our car. This was our free time activity with my father. Even though we failed most of the time, he explained every detail about small appliances, cars, car engines and why we failed or succeeded in the end. Since then, I was interested in mechanical engineering, but my professor at university inspired me into my current area of mechanical engineering. During my first fluid dynamics course at university, the professor asked us to imagine vortices happening around us in the classroom. Since that day, my interest shifted towards fluid dynamics, and I found myself working with vortices during my whole career in different areas.

Tell us about your experiences as a STEM professional. What accomplishment(s) are you most proud of and what do you hope to accomplish in the future?

I studied mechanical engineering during my whole career. From the beginning of my academic career, I always identified the areas where I need to grow academically and professionally and trained myself to achieve what I wanted. My master’s degree was in hydro-energy. It included every aspect of designing, optimization, manufacturing, and testing of hydro turbine parts. During the time, I worked with both academicians and professionals from the industry. During my doctoral studies, different from my master’s, I gained expertise in unsteady and vortical flows, with more specific knowledge in unsteady bio-inspired flows. The goal of my Ph.D. project was to learn the underlying physics of efficient swimming and use my findings as a basis that will lead to novel, fast, and efficient underwater vehicle designs. I developed scaling laws to predict three-dimensional (3D) heaving and pitching foils’ performance. It became one of the few models in 3D that can elucidate the dominant flow physics behind the thrust production and energetics of bio-propulsors and provide guidance for designing bio-inspired propulsive systems. I am proud of this work because it helps to understand nature a little more and has many applications in engineering. During my Ph.D., I grew up in an inter- and multi-disciplinary group with professors who are experts in their areas, post-doctoral researchers, and doctoral students with different research backgrounds. This environment provided me a large professional and academic network, challenged me to learn about different research areas, and encouraged me to approach problems from different angles. Outside of research, as a proud Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) club member at Lehigh, I organized two alumni panels that bring students and alumni together and four professional development series to help students who are in their early career transition from university to industry and/or academia. Based on these efforts, I was awarded the graduate life leadership award. Currently, I am a post-doctoral researcher working on dynamic stall modeling and predicting for wind turbine applications combined with the data-driven approaches at EPFL. After my postdoc, I envision myself as a future academician and hope to strengthen my capacity as a researcher in the areas I am currently working on and worked on before. Although I am currently at the beginning of my academic career, I also want to develop the organizational skills of an effective group leader, continue building a diverse network of collaborators, and help women entering my field to overcome the challenges that they will face in their career path.

 

What advice would you give your younger self?

There will be many steps that you need to take and bumpy roads to follow where you feel there is no end. Go for any opportunity and never think that you can’t do it, even though there are people who say the opposite. Don’t let anyone destroy your dreams. The dreams that you never tried to make real. Then, work hard and don’t forget this sentence from Dogan Cuceloglu; “If you do your best in the purity of your intention, the universe will always help you.”

 

What does Women’s History Month mean to you? 

This month is an opportunity to recognize the efforts of women who challenged the status quo and didn't back down and show one more time to the world when women succeed, the world succeeds.

 
Patricia Teller Beadling '73

Name: Patricia Teller Beadling    

 

Education: B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, Lehigh University, 1973

 

Where are you from, and where do you currently reside?

I grew up in Wilkes-Barre, PA and currently live in Malvern, PA.

 

What is your current professional position? 

I am retired from Verizon, formerly Bell Atlantic and Bell of Pennsylvania.

 

How did you first get interested in mechanical engineering?

I took several years of mechanical drawing (drafting) classes in high school. My teacher asked if I wanted to be the worker or the boss. When I answered, “The Boss!” he told me to get an engineering degree. Best advice ever!

 

Tell us about your experiences as a STEM professional.  What accomplishment(s) are you most proud of and what do you hope to accomplish in the future?

Back in my early career, it was unusual to be a female engineer. I had to continually prove I could do the job, the same or better than any man. I’m proud that I continuously advanced in my career, which paved the way for other women. I’m also proud to have balanced a career and family.

 

What advice would you give your younger self?

Stay true to yourself and never give up on your dreams and goals.

 

What does Women’s History Month mean to you? 

Women’s History Month recognizes that women have always contributed to our history, and are an important part of our history and our future.

 
Susan Cheng '21

Name: Susan Cheng 

Education: B.S. Mechanical Engineering (2021), Minor: Product Design

Where are you from? Middletown, NY

What is your favorite part about being a Lehigh engineer?

My favorite part about being a Lehigh engineer is gaining the opportunity to use my creative engineering mindset to solve pressing problems such as the plastic crisis in the Philippines. 

How did you first get interested mechanical engineering?

I got interested in mechanical engineering after taking my first engineering class in 7th grade. I was amazed to see myself apply the knowledge that I had gained from my science and math classes in real-life problems. I enjoyed designing a maglev on AutoDesk Inventor and creating a prototype of it using foam. At the end of the semester, everyone had so much fun racing their maglevs on a mini magnetic track.

What else are you involved with at Lehigh outside of course work?

Outside of course work, I am an executive board member of two clubs: Green Action and Aikido Club. In Green Action, I promote awareness of human activities or political policies that harm the environment and teach ways to be environmentally sustainable to the student body. In the Aikido club I practice defense martial art to develop the capability in protecting myself and others from physical harm. I am also currently working as the product designer and mechanical engineer on a project known as PlasTech Ventures through the Global Social Impact Fellowship. The project focuses on combatting the plastic waste crisis in the Philippines by repurposing post-consumer plastic waste into bricks to be used for construction purposes. 

Tell us about any teachers or mentors who have inspired you to get where you are today.

There have been three professors at Lehigh who have inspired me to get to where I am today: Professor Hannah Dailey, Professor Christina Haden, and Professor Alexandra Schmidt-Ullrich. They were all wonderful professors who have encouraged me to pursue my interests and challenged me to view and develop solutions to problems outside of my “student” bubble. They made me acknowledge my self-worth and capabilities in achieving anything I set my mind to in a world where female engineers are pressured in a male dominant field.

What are your plans for after graduation?

After graduation, I am looking to pursue an opportunity within the industry to gain experience in design and mechanical engineering to one day redesign the way people live to be more environmentally friendly. 

What does Women’s History Month mean to you? 

Women’s history month is a moment in time for people to recognize how far women have come in breaking societal barriers through their accomplishments that have benefited society. Women’s history month also serves as a reminder that there is still a long way to go until all gender barriers are broken, but we are capable of it and must step up to the challenges that come our way.

 
Jesse Clarke '02

Name: Jesse Clarke   

Education: Lehigh University, BS - Mechanical Engineering, ‘02

Purdue University, MS – Engineering, ‘09

Where are you from, and where do you currently reside?

Born and raised in Southwest Florida then took a meandering path through the Northeast, Midwest, and around the world before landing where I currently reside in Los Angeles. 

What is your current professional position? 

I am the Pilots Manager at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI). LACI is a nonprofit incubator focused on clean energy, zero emissions transportation, and sustainable cities (circular economy). The organization utilizes an integrated approach to create an inclusive green economy by creating new companies, de-risking the go-to-market process, and helping companies deliver market ready cleantech solutions and jobs in Southern California and beyond. 

As Pilots Manager, I work on the full lifecycle of cleantech pilots from ideation to launch focusing on deployments with and within communities who are disproportionately impacted by climate change yet often overlooked by technical innovation and traditional startup culture. Lessons from the pilots are shared with key stakeholders (corporate, government, community, and startups) to inform new technology, business models, and policy recommendations.

How did you first get interested mechanical engineering?

I attribute my pursuit of Mechanical Engineering to helping my dad work on cars as a kid. Our weekend projects always ended with greasy hands and despite only sometimes fixing the issue, it sparked an interest in how things moved. Combined with my love of math, Mechanical Engineering became the natural fit. I tell people that I have a degree in problem solving because ME is a great foundation for anything you want to do. 

Tell us about your experiences as a STEM professional.  What accomplishment(s) are you most proud of and what do you hope to accomplish in the future?

It’s hard to pick something I am most proud of since I have had the good fortune of being able to follow my various passions. Starting off as an Automotive Engineer, I had my dream job driving vehicles to their limits for handling development including on the racetrack for C6 Corvette ZR1 tire development. Through non-profit and startup work, I traveled to Africa and India for strategy meetings with other startups bringing affordable, reliable, renewable energy to the almost 1 billion without access. My current role ties all my previous experiences together blending business model development and community outreach to launch first-in-the-nation pilot projects. A common theme though through all my STEM experiences is being a female minority in male dominated fields, so the legacy I aim to leave is to have played a large part in ushering in the world’s transition to clean energy and transportation while also leveling the playing field to create an inclusive industry.  

What does Women’s History Month mean to you? 

To be honest, I have mixed emotions about assigning one month to focus on any specific group. The work needed to heal the inequities and injustices of the past needs to be done every day until everyone has the same opportunities. That said, it is important to celebrate the progress we’ve made and the more the spotlight is put on women in STEM the more it can help build identity and a sense of belonging for girls. So, for HERstory month I take advantage of the spotlight to learn and share about the unrecognized women who were the rebels, who broke through barriers and changed the world no matter the consequences. 

 
Hannah Dailey '02 BS, '06 MS, '09 PhD

Name: Hannah Dailey, PhD

Education: B.S. Mechanical Engineering, Lehigh University (2002)

M.S. Mechanical Engineering, Lehigh University (2006)

Ph.D. Mechanical Engineering, Lehigh University (2009)

Where are you from, and where do you currently reside?

I grew up in Naples, FL and currently live in Central New Jersey, which is officially a place, no matter what you might hear from people who live in North Jersey or South Jersey!

What is your current professional position? 

I am an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Lehigh and I also serve as Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of a startup orthopaedic device company called OrthoXel, based in Cork, Ireland.

What are some courses you teach at Lehigh? 

At the undergraduate level, I teach Thermodynamics I and Heat Transfer, and also a fun elective for seniors that was inspired by the sci-fi novel, The Martian by Andy Weir. At the graduate level, I teach a course in numerical methods where, among other things, I have my students use MATLAB to solve puzzles like Sudoku and make computer-generated fractal art.

Tell us about your research interests.

I study bone fractures and how they heal. Bones are amazing because they heal in response to mechanical loads. My lab collaborates with orthopaedic surgeons and veterinary surgeons to develop imaging-based tests for the load-bearing capacity of bones while they are healing. 

How did you first get interested mechanical engineering?

When I was a kid, I loved playing with LEGO Technic sets and reading The Way Things Work by David Macaulay. Gear trains were always my favorite things to figure out, so it was no surprise to anybody when I decided on Mechanical Engineering for my major. 

Tell us about your experiences as a STEM professional.  What accomplishment(s) are you most proud of and what do you hope to accomplish in the future?

For the last decade, I’ve been working in orthopaedics, both as an entrepreneur and a researcher. I love this field because we get to work hand-in-hand with orthopaedic surgeons on an important shared mission – restoring freedom of mobility to people after they suffer traumatic accidents. My proudest achievement so far has been the opportunity to take a technology that I helped design all the way from a sketch on a whiteboard to successful human use. There is so much room for innovation in orthopaedics, from basic science discoveries all the way to commercialization of new implants and surgical robotics. Across academia and industry, a lot of this work is really driven by mechanical engineers and I’m excited to keep being a part of that for years to come.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t be afraid to pursue opportunities outside your comfort zone. Take every opportunity to learn new things, even if you aren’t sure how you’ll pull it off. You will amaze yourself with the things you will achieve over the course of your career that you can’t even imagine right now. 

What does Women’s History Month mean to you? 

I have always been inspired by the women in my family who were clearly scientifically and mechanically inclined, but they didn’t pursue STEM careers because society closed a lot of doors to women at the time. For example, my mom is a talented professional painter who studied fine arts in college, but when my siblings and I were young, we did a lot more science projects with her than we did art. As a girl, she got pushed out of science and math by a narrow-minded guidance counselor in middle school, but I think she would have made an amazing engineer. As a parent, she modeled creative curiosity and she raised me to consider any career as being within my reach. That legacy is what Women’s History Month means to me – the idea that we, as women, can actively help create the world we want the next generation to inherit. I hope I’m doing that a little bit for the young women who take my classes and definitely for my two daughters, who are 9 and 12 and are just starting to envision how they will one day impact the world around them.

 
Christina Viau Haden

Name: Christina Viau Haden

Education: PhD ‘12 from the University of Virginia

Where are you from, and where do you currently reside?

I was born in the United States but raised in Quebec, Canada for most of my childhood until I came back to the U.S. for college. I currently reside in Bethlehem, PA.  

What is your current professional position? 

I’m a Professor of Practice in the Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics Department.

What are some courses you teach at Lehigh?

I teach Fundamentals of Engineering Mechanics (MECH003), Thermodynamics (ME104) and I advise Capstone teams. I’m also really excited to be developing a co-taught course with a colleague in the college of arts and science about Leonardo da Vinci, the engineer and the artist. The details are still being worked out, but it should be a really fun course with a lot of hands-on experiences recreating some of da Vinci’s inventions! 

Tell us about your research interests.

I’ve been working on the material property predictions of 3D printed metals since coming to Lehigh. We built an in-house 3D printer using a MIG welder with the help of some very talented students and instrumented it with several sensors to detect in situ deposition conditions. It’s very interesting to see how metals behave after being printed, and certainly very different from conventional metal casting. There’s a lot of room for discovery in this field! 

How did you first get interested in mechanical engineering? 

I remember opening up an old phone and soldering a broken wire to fix it when I was 8 years old. I think that was a turning point for me: I started opening up old appliances and devices to understand how they worked. I just wanted to understand everything.  I also remember being really excited about the power of creating things. The rest of my push into engineering was thanks to some amazing teachers along the way that believed in me.

Tell us about your experiences as a STEM professional.  What accomplishment(s) are you most proud of and what do you hope to accomplish in the future?

I really love my job. I love teaching, interacting with students, and having the freedom to explore scientific questions. I think my greatest honor as a faculty at Lehigh has been to serve as an advisor to SWE, WiSE and a preLUsion for incoming women engineers. To be at the intersection of all three of those groups has given me perspective about the experiences women have in STEM. And it has made me a fierce advocate for the young women coming through our programs at Lehigh. I established a women’s mentoring group two years ago within MEM, and it has been one of my greatest joys. I get to spend time with a small group of students, both undergraduate and graduate, on a regular basis, and nothing makes me happier than to share in their successes and support them through whatever challenges come their way. 

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would say: you belong here [in STEM]. Don’t doubt yourself so much. Even though you don’t see many other women around you, you can do this, too. And some day, you will be able to show other women they can, too.

What does Women’s History Month mean to you? 

In French, we call “International Women’s Day” the “Journee Internationale des Droits des Femmes” which roughly translates to “Women’s Rights Day”. I like that this day (and the whole month) remind us of the journey so many undertook before us to secure the rights which we enjoy today. It’s a great reminder for me to be thankful; for both the women who came before us and their achievements, while also looking to the future with an eye for what still needs to be done.

 
Grace Heidelberger '17

Name: Grace Heidelberger

Education: B.S. Mechanical Engineering, Lehigh University, Class of 2017

Where are you from, and where do you currently reside?

I am from Lincroft, New Jersey and I currently reside in Easton, Pennsylvania. 

What is your current professional position? 

I am currently working as a Business Process & Systems Program Lead/Packaging Engineer with Mars Wrigley.

How did you first get interested in mechanical engineering?

My mom is a Chemical Engineer so growing up she always encouraged STEM activities and tried to get myself and my siblings interested in this field. Additionally, when I was in high school a unique opportunity was presented to me when I was encouraged to apply to the Governor’s School of Engineering and Technology. This was a summer program I attended between my junior and senior years where I spent a few months working on engineering projects and attending lectures in various subjects. This experience helped me put my engineering curiosities into practice and I realized that I loved all of the projects and critical thinking aspects of the program. From there I decided I definitely wanted to major in engineering. I looked up opportunities in each of the engineering disciplines and decided that mechanical engineering sounded the most interesting to me. I am so glad I made that decision.

Tell us about your experiences as a STEM professional.  What accomplishment(s) are you most proud of and what do you hope to accomplish in the future?

One of my personal favorite aspects of being a STEM professional, is that I have the opportunity to solve many different types of problems.  For example, how to develop a pilot scale manufacturing process and scale it up, how to make a package cheaper without changing the look or feel to the consumer, or what is the most efficient way to analyze a set of data and draw conclusions from it.

 About a year ago, I was able to take a Six Sigma training course and I completed a project to earn my green belt. This training and certification focused on improving manufacturing capabilities through the use of statistical tools and analysis. This accomplishment of attaining my Six Sigma green belt certification has qualified me for many more professional opportunities. I have also travelled to Denmark as an ambassador for my company to develop lesson plans for science-based environmental education. In the future, I hope to continue working on developing and improving manufacturing processes to make them more efficient and less wasteful. 

What advice would you give your younger self?

If I could go back and give my younger self any advice, I would remind myself of the importance of continued learning and growth. Curiosity and learning go a very long way towards bettering yourself both personally and professionally. I would also advise myself to always make sure I have a mentor. There is always someone who has gone through what you are going through or is where you want to be and they are usually more than willing to help give you advice. 

What does Women’s History Month mean to you? 

Women’s History Month is a great opportunity to celebrate all of the amazing accomplishments of women before us and serves as a reminder of everything they accomplished to give me the opportunity to be where I am today. There are so many strong female leaders and role models around us. This is a month to let them know how they inspire you.

 
Amanda (Warrick) Kirk '05 BS, '07 MS

Name: Amanda (Warrick) Kirk

 

Education: Mechanical Engineering, B.S. 2005, Lehigh University 

Mechanical Engineering, M.S. 2007, Lehigh University

 

Where are you from, and where do you currently reside?

Wayne, PA, currently reside in Newtown Square, PA

 

What is your current professional position? 

Group Engineering Manager, Trauma Product Development – Globus Medical 

 

How did you first get interested in mechanical engineering?

My high school art teacher recommended an engineering path for me because product development is a way to marry art and science/math. 

 

Tell us about your experiences as a STEM professional.  What accomplishment(s) are you most proud of and what do you hope to accomplish in the future?

I’ve worked in Product Development for Joint Replacements and now Trauma devices for my entire 14-year career.  I work with surgeons to design implants and surgical instrumentation that nail, screw and plate patients’ bones back together.  With each product that we develop, improvements are made to enhance patients’ lives.  There is nothing more rewarding than being in the operating room and watching a surgeon implant your device to help a patient in need.

Even though I work in the medical device industry, a mechanical engineering degree has been extremely beneficial.  On a daily basis we deal with strength of materials, design for manufacturability, and mechanical testing among many other topics.  Now on the management side, I use my experience to guide my team to launch the best products possible.  I take a lot of pride in the success of my team and watching each person grow in their own careers.

 

What advice would you give your younger self?

In work and even your personal life, raise your hand and volunteer for as much as you can.  You never know what experience may lead to your next big passion or career opportunity.

 

What does Women’s History Month mean to you? 

I am proud to be a woman, especially working in male dominated industries like engineering and orthopedics.  It is important to recognize the women who paved the path before us.  Just in the last 14 years, I have perceived an increase in women in engineering and executive positions.  This is a great trend to see.

 
Sena Kizildemir '18

Name: Sena Kizildemir

Education: 

  • BS in Civil Engineering (2016), Isik University, Istanbul, Turkey 
  • MS in Civil Engineering (2018), Lehigh University
  • PhD Candidate in Mechanical Engineering, Lehigh University

Where are you from?

I am from Istanbul, Turkey.

What is your favorite part about being a Lehigh engineer?

My favorite part of being a Lehigh engineer is simply being challenged on a daily basis. Even though that might sound terrible, this is one kind of thing that you would want to have in your life as an engineer. Lehigh teaches me how to embrace the struggles, learn from them and grow. So in summary, my favorite part of being a Lehigh engineer is knowing how to overcome challenges and being smarter and confident in my abilities to make a great impact in the field. 

How did you first get interested in mechanical engineering?

I was actually studying Civil Engineering. However, my research was being conducted by the Mechanical department. In this way I got the chance to know mechanical engineering more and more and eventually I switched my department to mechanical engineering for my PhD. 

What else are you involved with at Lehigh outside of course work?

Lehigh has a great Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS). I mostly got involved in the activities that are arranged by the OISS. There is also a Turkish Student Club at Lehigh and we’ve been trying our best to make special events. However due to the global pandemic, the activities overall at Lehigh get pretty limited. 

Tell us about any teachers or mentors who have inspired you to get where you are today.

Prof. Nied, who is both my research and academic advisor, is a great professor and mentor. He is always there if I get stuck with anything. He always gives me the inspiration and direction to move forward. I would also need to say that Prof. Harlow plays an important role in my life. I’ve been working as his TA for 2 years now. He is the person that guides me with his sincere advice. And most importantly he is giving me the chance to explore my skills for my future career, both academic and professional. 

What are your plans for after graduation?

I would like to stay in academia and be a professor eventually. However I would like to work in the field as well. I might even end up doing both at the end of my career exploration. 

What does Women’s History Month mean to you? 

I see the Women’s History Month is a chance for all of us to acknowledge women’s contributions to every aspect of life. We need to dig down deep to explore many of the vital roles that women have played throughout history. As a woman in engineering, I believe we all have the power to influence, to motivate and to inspire the world. Women’s History Month reminds me of that power we have. 

Melike Kurt '20

Name: Melike Kurt   

Education: Doctor of Philosophy, Mechanical Engineering (2020) Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA

Master of Science, Mechanical Engineering (2014) Bogazici University, Istanbul, Turkey

Bachelor of Science, Mechanical Engineering (2011) Istanbul Technical University, Istanbul, Turkey

Where are you from, and where do you currently reside?

I am from Turkey. I completed my BSc and MSc degrees there, and then moved to the United States for my PhD studies. Currently, I live in Southampton, United Kingdom. 

What is your current professional position? 

I am a postdoctoral researcher in Aerodynamics and Flight Mechanics Group at the University of Southampton. 

How did you first get interested in mechanical engineering?

The system in Turkey forces you to do a soul search in your last year of high school. Based on the score acquired from the National Exam, students fill out a list of schools and programs, and the system allocates you to one from that list. I knew that I wanted to do something that marries physics and math. I was a Formula 1 fan (I still am!) and interested in designing dynamic systems. After a long elimination process, I decided that mechanical engineering would fit the criteria in my check list the most. Looking back, I am glad that I have made this decision and received a training in a field that spans so many different subjects and has so much to offer!

Tell us about your experiences as a STEM professional.  What accomplishment(s) are you most proud of and what do you hope to accomplish in the future?

Starting from my undergrad years, I always sought out different subjects that would interest and excite me in the vast and diverse field of mechanical engineering. I was fascinated by anything and everything fluids from the first time that I was introduced to the subject, in an undergraduate level fluid mechanics course. As part of my final year project, I studied plastics flow in an extrusion process and participated in the design of a commercial extruder that was later manufactured as a prototype. This brief introduction to academic research encouraged me to continue my education and apply for a masters program. During my masters, I switched my focus to thermofluids and worked in an experimental project on nanofluids preparation, thermal and rheological characterization. This experience made me see how much joy that hands-on experience and experimental work bring me and encouraged me to specialize and learn more. After my masters, I knew that I wanted to go back to the subject that excites me the most, fluid mechanics! To do so, I joined the Unsteady Flow Interactions Lab under the supervision of Prof Keith Moored. This time, my focus was unsteady bioinspired flows, such as the ones that occur around swimming fish or flying birds. Specifically, I studied collective flow interactions and propulsive performance of flapping hydrofoils, as a simple model of collectives in nature, such as fish schools and bird flocks. Yes, it was a highly interdisciplinary subject feeding from biology, physics, and engineering. And because of this, now, I have a very different appreciation for interdisciplinary work and nature. Trying to understand nature and how these animals interact with fluids through experiments and thinking about how we can use this knowledge in engineering applications was truly an exhilarating and humbling experience that exposed me to a variety of brilliant research and ideas. I am proud of my contributions to the field and the work that I have done during my PhD and truly grateful for the opportunities that I was given to interact and work with academic scholars from different walks of fluids. Currently, as a postdoctoral researcher, I am working on different types of problems on flapping foil systems, as well as turbulent flow over compliant surfaces where the one deforms under and modifies the surrounding flow, offering certain passive flow control opportunities. This journey and my training have been all to gain the experience and skills to become an independent thinker and researcher that I aspire to be, with the end goal to become an academic, leading my own research team. But this does not mean growing and learning have an end. Every new problem gives me more questions to solve in return. If and when I have the opportunity, I would very much like to share this love of seeking questions and solving problems, collaborate with a diverse network of people, and inspire more people, especially women, to join my field and support them in their own academic journey.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Please be gentle to yourself and listen. Constantly overcriticizing and feeling less than, is common amongst young professionals. I, myself, am a victim of this thinking. Learning to navigate around these feelings, reassuring yourself and knowing your self-worth through inner dialogues and self-reflection are valuable skill sets that will serve you well, no matter where your journey takes you.  

What does Women’s History Month mean to you? 

As a history buff, since the elementary school, I have always questioned how and why women are this absent from history books. All the countries seemed to be founded and conquered by men, revolutions have been started or all the inventions have been made by men only. I remember that I had told this to my father, I must have been 8 or 9 years old, and my father did not have an answer for me. He simply hugged me instead. Next day, he came home with a book, the biography of Marie Skłodowska Curie. Reading that book, reading about her work affected and inspired me deeply as a young girl, and made me realize that women, too, can be pioneers in their own field. From my own experience, I know how important it is to recognize the contributions of women from all walks of life to the society, who challenged the status-quo and succeeded despite the odds. Women’s History Month is a good reminder that, as women, we need to keep challenging the norms so that the next generations can have more female representation and role models, and more stories of successful women that they can aspire to. 

 
Shira Morosohk '18 BS, '23 PhD

Name: Shira Morosohk

 

Education: BS in Mechanical Engineering (minor in Applied Mathematics), May 2018

PhD in Mechanical Engineering, expected May 2023

 

Where are you from?

St. Louis, MO

 

What is your favorite part about being a Lehigh engineer?

I love that Lehigh fosters more cooperation than competition between engineering students.  In the real world, engineering accomplishments are not achieved by the single student with the highest grade, but by collaborative teams with different strengths.

 

How did you first get interested in mechanical engineering?

I knew that I wanted to eventually work on renewable energy technologies in some way, and majoring in mechanical engineering seemed like the best way to prepare myself for that career path.

 

What else are you involved with at Lehigh outside of course work?

As an undergrad, I was involved in Greek life and in Hillel.  As a graduate student, I tutor an undergrad student in the department.

 

What are your plans for after graduation?

I plan to continue working on nuclear fusion research, and hopefully contribute to the development of a clean, sustainable energy technology.

 

What does Women’s History Month mean to you? 

I may be a woman working in a highly male-dominated field, but I have never truly had to fight for the right to receive the education I am getting or to do the work I am doing.  I owe this to the women who came before me and fought to be included in the STEM world.  Now it is my turn to continue working to improve the experiences of women and other gender minorities in these fields.

 
Michelle Rodriquez '21

Name: Michelle Rodriguez 

Education: B.S. Mechanical Engineering, May 2021 

Where are you from? Doylestown, Pennsylvania 

What is your favorite part about being a Lehigh engineer? 

My favorite part of being a Lehigh engineer is moving through the years with the same small group of people. My class of Lehigh engineers can share similar positive and negative experiences with courses, professors, and Lehigh life in general. 

How did you first get interested in mechanical engineering? 

I first got interested in engineering by attending camps and events at local universities put on by their SWE groups. I was interested in everything introduced to me, and mechanical engineering was the field that offered the widest range of learning opportunities and career paths. 

What else are you involved with at Lehigh outside of course work? 

I am on the executive boards for Music Box and Lehigh’s SWE chapter. I also work at Wilbur Powerhouse and I try to volunteer in the Bethlehem community when I can. 

Tell us about any teachers or mentors who have inspired you to get where you are today. 

The most important teacher I’ve had was Mr. Czekaj for Tech Ed in high school. He really believed in me at a critical time in my education and never made me feel like I couldn’t be an engineer, even when I felt out of place being the only girl in a couple of his classes. And of course, I have to thank the Lehigh professors that put in the extra time to make sure I was doing well personally, professionally, and academically. These professors were mostly other women, but I don’t want to count out the few male professors that helped me outside of the context of class too. 

What are your plans for after graduation? 

Nothing is secured yet, lots of interviews coming up though! I hope to have some time to travel after graduation before I start working. 

What does Women’s History Month mean to you? 

Women’s History Month is an inspirational time to learn about all the women before me who have contributed to society through technology, advocacy, education, etc. when they haven’t been specifically appreciated through literature in academic spaces. I feel so refreshed reading about not only the contributions of these women, but their lives as well during this month of heightened awareness for the important women in history.

 
Emily Sechrist '16

Name: Emily Sechrist

Education: B.S. Mechanical Engineering – Lehigh University – 2016

Where are you from, and where do you currently reside?

I am originally from the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area.  I spent 3 years living and working in New York City and am now living in Davis, California.

What is your current professional position? 

I am currently a graduate student in the Biological Systems Engineering program at UC Davis.  I am interested in finding engineering solutions to help tackle the global issue of food waste. At the moment, I am working on a project that seeks to transform almond and walnut hulls into valuable products that will increase their economic value and reduce the environmental impact of their management.

How did you first get interested mechanical engineering?

I chose to study mechanical engineering to learn more about renewable energy and sustainable technologies but through my studies, I learned that mechanical engineers have the unique opportunity to learn about a breadth of inventions and phenomena that govern our modern society.  I not only learned why much of the world is the way it is, I also saw many opportunities for redesign and improvement.  I believe all mechanical engineers, not just those in sustainability fields, have the ability to make our society more equitable and less environmentally destructive through their work. 

Tell us about your experiences as a STEM professional.  What accomplishment(s) are you most proud of and what do you hope to accomplish in the future?

I have worked as a commissioning engineer, an energy consultant, a program manager, and even an adjunct lecturer.  In every one of those positions, I have often been one of the youngest and one of just a handful of women in the room.  I am proud of myself for taking on each of these different roles and executing them to the best of my ability. My dream has always been to become an engineering professor, but I am currently reevaluating that goal and trying to decide what I want to do next.  Overall, I hope that any role I take on has a positive impact on people and the planet. 

What advice would you give your younger self?

You will face many instances in which you question your abilities, but you can do anything you put your mind to. Trust your intuition and never compromise on what you believe in! Don’t be afraid to ask for help or give yourself time off if that’s what you need.  The weight of the world does not rest on your shoulders (my current self still needs to hear this advice all the time).

What does Women’s History Month mean to you? 

Women’s history month is an amazing opportunity to celebrate and recognize women for all of the amazing things we have accomplished and all the barriers we have overcome! Visibility of women in male-dominated fields, especially STEM, helps younger women feel more confident about entering the field by showing them someone they can relate to having a successful career.  I have met so many helpful, inspiring women over my career and am now a mentor to an undergraduate engineering student through the Women for Energy Efficiency Network – I celebrate these women this month and every month!

Natasha Vermaak

Name: Natasha Vermaak, https://engineering.lehigh.edu/faculty/natasha-vermaak

 

Education: PhD, University of California Santa Barbara 2010

 

Where are you from, and where do you currently reside?

I’m originally from Minnesota and currently live in Fountain Hill, PA walking distance to Lehigh University.

 

What is your current professional position? 

Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics at Lehigh University

 

What are some courses you teach at Lehigh?

Fundamentals of Engineering Mechanics (MECH003)

Thermodynamics I (ME104)

Introduction to Heat Transfer (ME321)

Inelastic Behavior of Materials (MECH432)

 

Tell us about your research interests.

My group uses computational and experimental techniques to address problems in thermostructural design, materials degradation, and structural durability. Some recent applications include for hypersonic vehicles and composite wear. https://engineering.lehigh.edu/faculty/natasha-vermaak

 

How did you first get interested in mechanical engineering?

What first got me interested was a friend who showed me an article about the specific strength of spider silk (comparable to steel) and the study of materials science. I was immediately hooked on materials science and figuring out what dictates the properties that different materials have. During my studies, mechanical engineering courses like heat transfer and continuum mechanics were some of my favorite and this influenced my decision to focus on the mechanics of materials and structural materials in general. What continues to spark my interest is that I find engineering to be a deeply creative and collaborative endeavor and the field of mechanical engineering a source of constant inspiration. As mechanical engineers we ask questions about how things work and how to make them better; how to design systems that make people healthier and safer and preserve the environment and make the world a better place. 

 

Tell us about your experiences as a STEM professional.  What accomplishment(s) are you most proud of and what do you hope to accomplish in the future?

I’m most proud of: (1) the collaborative research that I have done throughout my career so far. It has been extremely rewarding to lead and participate in team-based projects that address complex multidisciplinary challenges for the ultimate benefit of society. (2) Being part of and contributing to professional societies and organizations that deeply value and are actively working to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in STEM. In the future, I look forward to broader collaborations, further from my discipline, to foster innovation and convergent research. With this outlook and environment, I look forward to contributing to the training of the next-generation of STEM professionals who will continue to address DEI as integral to our pursuit of excellence in mechanical engineering research, teaching, and scholarship. You can find more about my interests and accomplishments through my website: https://engineering.lehigh.edu/faculty/natasha-vermaak

 

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would advise my younger self: (i) surround yourself as best as possible with people who support you and who you aspire to be like. (ii) throughout your career take time to reflect on what works best for you, in what environments, under what circumstances do you thrive. Cut out things that don’t work for you. (iii) cultivate the skill of confidently declining or saying No to things. (iv) develop a strategic plan with short-term and long-term SMART goals and regularly assess and readjust this to focus on things in my life and career that are truly important to me.

 

What does Women’s History Month mean to you? 

To quote Vice President Kamala Harris: “Women make history every day. Some we know -- the Suffragettes, the Riveters. The stories of others -- especially women of color and LBGTQ women -- have gone untold. This Women’s History Month, we honor these women and all women.” (https://twitter.com/vp/status/1366538744254324736?s=21)

I look forward to learning more about and amplifying the voices of the women in our Lehigh University Mechanical Engineering & Mechanics community!