One of the things we usually ask the Women in Engineering that we feature each month is “Have you had any mentors or role models in your education or career”? This month, I’m actually going to talk about one of mine.
She has her Bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering from the University of Maine, and recently completed her PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Yale University. Most notably to me, she is my big sister.
The oldest of the four girls in my family, I have always looked up to her not only for her hard work and dedication to everything that she has started – and finished – but also because during it all, she is uncompromisingly kind, optimistic, and outgoing. Along with my other two sisters, who happen to be Chemical Engineers, as well, I grew up watching her work to excel at everything she did, not because it necessarily came easily, but because to her there was no other option.
Starting in elementary school, Jenny became involved in every extracurricular activity that was available in our little town in Maine (including being a decorated baton-twirler by the age of seven!). She always particularly excelled in school, and loved the Sciences. Considering a potential career in Medicine or a related field, she decided to major in Chemical Engineering at the University of Maine in Orono. She was a member of the Honors College, the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society, American Institute of Chemical Engineering, TAPPI-PIMA, and the Student Alumni Association.
After completing her degree, Jenny moved to New Haven with her husband, Andy, who had been accepted into the PhD program for Chemical Engineering at Yale. She worked as a Lab Manager and Research Assistant in the Saltzman Lab at Yale, and later decided to pursue her PhD, as well. With the director of the lab and one of her mentors, Mark Saltzman, she has worked for the last several years to develop chemotherapeutic nanoparticles as drug delivery vehicles. These particles are engineered to more effectively target brain tumors, and more specifically Glioblastoma, a highly aggressive, and ultimately fatal tumor. By doing so, the idea is that the harsh side effects of the treatment will be minimized on the rest of the body, and more efficiently treat the tumor itself.
In addition to being a Graduate Student, she also spent time volunteering at Yale New Haven hospital in the emergency department, focusing in child life distraction tactics, which she described as anything from coloring and stickers to blowing bubbles while children were having IVs administered.
Jenny also was selected to participate in the School of Engineering’s Advanced Graduate Leadership Program (AGLP) where she was selected to work with the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute and the Office of Cooperative Research. She joined with two student ventures to research patents and help with business planning. In addition, she worked at the McDougal Graduate Student Life Center, where she spent time as the Coordinating Fellow, overseeing planning and events to help the approximately 5,000 graduate students at Yale network with one another while also providing opportunities for a little fun while working through their respective programs.
A few weeks ago, my family and I watched Jenny defend her thesis titled, “Enhanced Systematic and Local Delivery of Targeted, Brain-penetrating, Polymeric Nanoparticles for Glioblastoma,” to her thesis committee, lab members, and friends. Though we all hear about this type of research, and the fund-raising efforts that are put in to making sure that it can continue, it seemed a bit more concrete to be in a room full of people who are dedicating years of their lives to make it a reality.
Though she is extremely humble about all that she has accomplished, I couldn’t be more proud, or feel better knowing that there are people as dedicated to this field of research as Jenny is. She has credited her husband Andy for constantly supporting and encouraging her, and her parents for always helping her to do her best, and teaching her to be self-sufficient and not deterred by obstacles. We laughed as we remembered how our Dad, who is a Civil Engineer, used to direct us out to the driveway every time a tire had to be changed, and how he would help us build crooked shelves for our Mom for Mother’s Day. It wasn’t uncommon to receive a ratchet set or electric screw-driver as a gift growing up at our house!
Over the last year and a half, Jenny has taken on another very important role, by becoming a Mom. I’m positive that she will inspire her daughter to be as thoughtful, curious and determined as she is.
Jenny’s advice for any young students who want to pursue a career in Engineering is to stick it out. “Its hard work, but don’t give up if it’s something you really want to do. There are so many avenues out there where you can make a difference, and pursuing an interest in the Sciences early on can help you find your passion.”
Have someone in mind? You can nominate the next recipient for the SOLIDWORKS Women in Engineering Program, honoring the outstanding achievements that women are accomplishing day to day in the engineering community. Find out more information or get started today!
Original Headshot Photo Credit: Harold Shapiro