STEM Day: Thoughts from an Engineer

Dr. Leslie Field

Working as an engineer has proven to be a great choice for me. These days I'm working on one of the world's toughest problems: how to keep the planet habitable in the face of climate change, so my "kids" (now young adults) can have reasonable lives. It's taking every bit of my love of problem solving and my engineering background and my perseverance to do this. And my work, is to slow and reverse the single biggest lever on climate change, Arctic ice melt, is promising to make a real difference.

Fundamentally, I love to solve problems. That's what engineers (and inventors) do. It's also what artists do, and I find the same fun, of creating something, in all three areas.

I like that many expand STEM to STEAM (to include Art). In all three, engineering, art, invention, you take problems, look at something long enough to think about it in a different way, and then the new ideas come to mind for you to play with, to ask "what if", to start creating something new. When you're really into it, you can get into that "flow" state that people talk about - that being "in the zone". It's fun, and it's productive, and you can solve some of the world's biggest problems this way. How cool is that?!

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I'm a woman in STEM, and have been for a few decades, since a time when this was considered to be more "weird" than "cool". 

I loved attending the Grace Hopper Conference a couple of years ago, where having so many women in technical fields, participating in one huge conference, energized everyone there. And it became evident to anyone present that women in STEM are way cool.

Women in STEM can sometimes bring a perspective to problems with a different focus than men. For me, STEM became a way to look to the future, the well-being of our earth and our children. This tells me that women in STEM may have really key contributions to addressing problems like climate change.