Testimonials from Cornell Engineering Faculty
Today’s female undergraduate STEM majors often have female professors they can look to as role models and mentors. Yet female professors do not always have senior female faculty to play these same roles for them. WISE helps fill this critical role in faculty development. It is a network that supports women faculty and strives to help them be successful. WISE provides a forum for discussing ideas and concerns specific to female faculty, advocates strongly for women with the upper administration, and unites women across the College of Engineering, thus encouraging a cross-pollination of ideas that benefits everyone. As a young assistant professor, I benefitted from the many positive interactions I had with this group and I believe WISE was a critical factor in my success at Cornell. Cultivating competent female faculty leadership will be a key factor in keeping Cornell a top-ranked school of engineering at the forefront of positive societal change.
Associate Professor, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
After receiving my undergraduate degree in chemistry with a minor in anthropology, I spent a year at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. It was there that I saw many examples of women at all points in their careers who were world-class scientists and were able at the same time to have a rewarding family life. Throughout graduate school and my postdoctoral research, I remembered these role models and worked to achieve a similar balance in my life, a goal I still work hard to maintain.
When I began my independent career at Cornell Engineering I was very happy to find the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) group already firmly established. Being a new faculty member is hard no matter who you are, but there are some issues that impact female faculty disproportionately and WISE gave me a place to talk about these things. It also assigned me a mentor, hosted informal lunches, and offered help with preparing my third-year review and tenure packages. Now that I have been here ten years, I find I am in a middle kind of role with WISE. I still turn to more senior female faculty with questions, but I am also able to offer my experiences and advice to younger women just starting out. The College of Engineering at Cornell has been a leader for the whole university in changing the climate for female faculty, and WISE has had a big part in the college’s success.
Associate Professor, Materials Science and Engineering
As an undergraduate student majoring in Physics at Peking University in China I was one of just 6 women in my major out of about 90 students. There was one female professor in the department, Chenjia Chen, who taught us atomic physics. All 6 of us loved her so much that we all topped the course. I was lucky enough to have another two very impressive women professors in my graduate programs at Lehigh and UC-Santa Barbara, Helen Chan and Evelyn Hu. All my professors were inspiring and let me see that there is a place for women in the highest levels of academic research.
Women in science and technology are just like men in science and technology in that we are a group defined by our outsized curiosity. It is important that undergrads and graduate students who come here with a wide array of interests have many examples of female faculty who are already active and successful in these areas. Just as importantly, the first years as a professor are hard and some of the things you do, you must do alone. It can be so very helpful to be able to turn to people who have already made it through those first years and are able to give advice, guidance, and support. That is why the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) faculty group at Cornell is so valuable.
Huili (Grace) Xing,
Richard Lunquist Sesquicentennial Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering and of Materials Science and Engineering