Work by Monmouth Alumnae, Students Part of International Women in Engineering Day

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#Enhancedbyengineering.

That’s the theme of this year’s International Women in Engineering Day. The June 23 observance promotes the work that women engineers across the globe are doing.

And “across the globe” very much includes the Monmouth College community.

Among a group of several Monmouth alumnae already working as engineers are Kara Young Boyles ’95 and Kai Kraut ’93. Boyles is the city engineer for South Bend, Indiana, and Kraut owns her own engineering firm in Honolulu. Previously, she served as the deputy director of transportation services in Honolulu.

On campus, a half-dozen young women are studying engineering.

“I’ve been fascinated by engineering for as long as I can remember,” said Ella Goodrich ’25 of Minonk, Illinois. “My love for math and physics naturally drew me toward it. After starting at Monmouth, I realized that engineering was indeed the perfect fit for my interests.”

Part of that fit was the College’s engineering and physics faculty.

“I’m incredibly grateful for our engineering professors – they are some of the most supportive and compassionate people I’ve met,” she said. “Despite the engineering field being predominantly male, our professors ensure equality for all students and make every student feel valued.”

‘A pretty hard problem’

Although the international celebration is very much in order, Monmouth physics professor Chris Fasano realizes there’s still a long way to go to advance the cause.

“There aren’t enough women in engineering,” he said. “It’s a persistent problem, and it’s a pretty hard problem, but educating women in engineering is extremely important.”

It may be a hard problem, but that doesn’t mean that Monmouth isn’t trying to help solve it. Fasano believes the College has several elements working in its favor.

“We offer a broad education, small classes and individual attention, all of which are a way to attract more women to the field,” he said. “We want them to use and develop their engineering skills and their communication skills and to be able to weigh the ethical implications of their work.”

As is the case, in general, with STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) majors at the College, Fasano said, “We make an effort to connect our women in engineering with the outside world through attending conferences, and we also get them involved with research projects even before their first classes through our SOFIA (Summer Opportunities for Intellectual Activity) program.”

Cool projects

As a heat dome hovers over the Midwest, air conditioners are a valuable asset. Thanks to a “Thermodynamics” project, Goodrich knows all about how one operates.

“One of the most memorable experiences I’ve had was taking apart and reassembling an air conditioner unit,” she said. “In lectures, we were studying how they worked, and seeing it firsthand gave me a whole new perspective. I really enjoyed that hands-on experience.”

Lizzie Durfee ’26 of Arlington, Washington, was also part of that class. Another “cool project” she mentioned was drone work she’s done with Fasano, attempting to determine the carbon monoxide level at the very top of corn crops.

“The design of things has always fascinated me, so getting the opportunity to truly understand the thought behind why structures are built the way they are is fun for me,” said Durfee. “My specific focus is mechanical engineering because I get to delve into the inner workings of projects.”

Natalie Morrow ’27 of Silvis, Illinois, said the reason she’s into engineering is simple: her father is.

“I first got into engineering when I was 10,” she said. “My dad and I had taken to building any and every thing that we could get our hands on. I realized that I loved the process of taking things apart and putting things together. That’s also when I fully understood that my dad did this kind of thing in his job as an engineer. I loved the idea of it and wanted to be like him.”

One of Morrow’s favorite moments from her first year at Monmouth was “building a 3-D printed blower that can blow up an air mattress in less than two minutes.”

‘A magical experience’

On Feb. 11, the world celebrated the broader International Day of Women and Girls in Science, celebrating accomplishments made by women in STEM fields. Gianna Maughan ’25 of Oak Lawn, Illinois, has known for several years she wanted to be involved with STEM, but now her focus is sharper.

“In high school, I still didn’t know exactly what STEM field I wanted to pursue,” she said. “I had a friend who knew that she was going to major in engineering. We had a Project Lead the Way program at our school, so I took all of those courses, which included two years of engineering, which I liked. I also like to learn how things work and how things are made.”

Maughan has experienced the familiar refrain that “Science is hard,” but she’d add that it’s also “amazing.”

“During freshman year, the physics classes were challenging, but I found it amazing that physics is how we make sense of the universe,” she said. “I love learning about astronomy, too, and I found physics interesting, so that’s why I decided to minor in it.”

Last year, Maughan came back to school early to participate in the SOFIA program.

“I was a mentor for the 2023 SOFIA program, doing a project with Professor (Michael) Solontoi about exploring exoplanets,” she said. “It was a great experience to learn how to use a telescope and see planets, stars and nebulae. And seeing meteors streak the night sky with our naked eyes was a magical experience.”

Biomedical engineering and, maybe, teaching

Both Maughan and Morrow are considering a biomedical engineering path.

“The medical field has also interested me, so designing medical technology would allow me to indulge in the mechanical process while still being a part of the medical field,” said Morrow. “My plans beyond Monmouth are to go to grad school for either mechanical or biomedical engineering and then get a job in industry.”

“I plan to have an emphasis in mechanical engineering,” said Maughan. “I’m also interested in biomedical engineering. Another program my high school has is biomedical science, and I loved all four years of it.”

Fasano is proud of the current group of women engineering students, which also include Noelle Faulk ’25 of Elmhurst, Illinois, and Nicole Fitch ’26 of Marengo, Illinois.

“They’re all really good, and they’re going to do great things,” said Fasano. “My fantasy would be that some of our women engineers go on to get advanced degrees and become professors, either here or just somewhere. Then they could be role models for the women students behind them. It would be wonderful for our graduates to become leaders in industry AND academia.”

***Courtesy of Barry McNamara, Monmouth College***

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