When asked if she always intended to make her career in academia, Dr.Melanie Ooi, laughing, replies, “No! Emphatically no.” But almost a decade after earning her Ph.D. degree, she reflects back on the meaning she has found in it. “Growing up, I was ambitious and driven, and I assumed teaching required a nurturing value that I didn’t have,” she says. As she pursued both her master’s and Ph.D. degrees, how-ever, she did projects in industry while teaching, eventually realizing the ways in which academia allowed her to give back to society.
The Wandering Journey of an Explorer
Adams takes the road less traveled As someone who has never been on a “traditional” career path, Jacquelyn Adams was delving into the future of work before it was trendy. She calls her approach “the wandering journey of an
explorer”—a computer engineer and small business owner who served in the Peace Corps, took a sabbatical (unsponsored) to hike some of the world’s greatest trails, and lived for more than a year as a digital nomad. Now that a global
pandemic has made the future of work a very present-day, necessary conversation, Adams is uniquely poised to provide insights on how to recalibrate when unexpected circumstances arise.
Pioneer and Pivot Quickly
Gokhale masters moving with the times when Dr. Anu Gokhale was awarded the designation of Distinguished Professor, the highest academic honor bestowed by Illinois State University, for the year 2020, she was understandably honored.
“I was thrilled and deeply grateful that my university chose to honor me in this way,” she says, explaining that thenDistinguished Professor title is awarded based on nomination. However, she continues humbly, “I’m really happy that my accomplishments have been recognized, but I’m still the same person.”
Seeking Energy and Automotive Solutions
For Liang Downey, pursuing a future in engineering was an obvious choice for many reasons. One was cultural: born and raised in China to parents who were both mathematicians, “math, science, and STEM were highly regarded and respected,” explains Downey. “There was a saying that if you study math, physics, or chemistry, you will do well no matter where you go or what you do.” On top of that, Downey says she read plenty of articles about female role mod-
els and, at the time, many girls wanted to grow up to be Marie Curie. Further more, whether she became Marie Curie 2.0 or not, there was the option to go to the moon. “In the United States at the time, everyone was talking about going to the moon, and so people would be proud to study STEM because those were the fields that sent you to the moon,” she says.
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