March is Women’s History Month!
This year’s national theme is Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. This theme is meant to honor generations of women who throughout American history have used their intelligence, imagination, sense of wonder, and tenacity to make extraordinary contributions to the STEM fields.
As part of our Women’s History Month celebrations, the Women's Center and CWIT are partnering to showcase six talented women in engineering and IT fields at UMBC. The future of women’s history is being created as we speak and there is importance in sharing our lived stories now. We invite you to join us throughout the month of March to learn more about these women, their experiences, and their dreams.
Abigail Williams, CWIT Affiliate
Junior Chemical Engineer major & President of
Society of Women Engineers
sparked your interest STEM and the journey to choosing your major.
I always knew that I would do something STEM related. My father majored in physics and electrical engineering in college and he taught me all my math and science since I was homeschooled kindergarten through 12th grade. I always took to it more than arts and humanities. I originally was going to major in chemistry. My mother was my guidance counselor and said, "Are you sure you want to do that? Maybe you should try chemical engineering." I took a look at the curriculum was intrigued. The rest is history.
Tell us about an
internship, research experience or project that you are proud of.
I'm currently on the CE21-MD (Computing Education for the 21st Century) project as an undergraduate research assistant for Dr. Susan Martin, Dr. Penny Rheingans, and Dr. Marie desJardins. It has been an eye-opening experience. I've met a lot of people, learned many skills, and developed an interest in computer science. I am now taking CMSC 201 because this research project piqued my interest.
Who are your role
models in the engineering or IT field?
Dr. Taryn Bayles in the CBEE department is my academic advisor and my role model. She is such an inspiration in so many ways. She is one of the reasons that I am so glad that I came to UMBC.
experience as a woman in a STEM major, including the challenges as well as the
In the chemical engineering department, I've not experienced a gender disparity quite as severe as the computer engineering and mechanical engineering departments. It's not unusual to have around a third of the class be women. Additionally, the department is headed by Dr. Julia Ross and the director of the undergraduate program is Dr. Bayles, my advisor. I've been fortunate to have these role models. There are still challenges, though. I have to work a bit harder to have my voice heard, particularly in science and math classes outside of my department. Even though the percentage of women in chemical engineering is higher than other engineering and IT disciplines, there is still a relatively small number of people who fully understand my struggles. The rewards, however, are numerous. There is an immense satisfaction when I do well on an assignment. I learn so many things that are absolutely fascinating. The moment of clarity, prompted by understanding of a particular concept, is addicting. Since there are not a large number of women chemical engineering majors, we band together and support each other. I took on a CWIT mentee last semester - a freshman chemical engineering major. Mentoring her has been such a great experience. Connecting with other women in my department is always rewarding and forges friendships that will last beyond graduation. Yes, my major is difficult and it has its struggles. But I wouldn't trade it for anything.
The Center for Women In Technology (CWIT) is dedicated to increasing the representation of women in the creation of technology in the engineering and information technology fields. CWIT efforts begin with nurturing a strong group of Scholars, grow to building community resources for other women in these majors, extend to fostering a healthy gender climate and ITE pedagogy in College of Engineering and Information Technology (COEIT) departments, and finally expand into outreach efforts to increase interest in technical careers. A successful program for female-friendly engineering and information technology education at UMBC will help make UMBC a destination for women (and men) interested in technical careers and serve as a national model for other universities.
Learn more about our community at http://www.cwit.umbc.edu/
For more information about Women’s History events and happenings, visit: http://my.umbc.edu/groups/womenscenter/news/24724