I completed my B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering in 2018. Due to my interest in biomaterials, the experience I gained from materials engineering allowed for an entirely new appreciation for organic materials and their application in medicine. I am now a graduate student in Medical Sciences and a MD/PhD applicant to complete the PhD portion in biomaterials engineering.
— Haley Barnes (@HaleyJBarnes) April 20, 2018
I was asked by Texas Christian University Society of Women Engineers to speak on “How To Be An Engineer” for the annual outreach event for Girls Inc of Tarrant County. As someone who is currently taking a leave-of-absence in engineering to learn more about the body and it’s deficiencies, I felt odd responding to this prompt. From my past outreach experience with Girls Inc, a lot of their middle school and high school participants want to be the next generation of scientists and engineers (a phenomenal task by this great non-profit and Fort Worth SWE & TCU SWE!). However, there’s always at least half of the participants who have a passion for other life-callings, i.e. dancer, teacher, architect. As someone who ultimately wants to be a physician who communicates and works alongside engineers, who am I to tell the room to go out and purely be an engineer?
Morning of, I had an epiphany. I was grateful for my engineering training. It changed my perspective and allowed me to challenge my traditional medical peers from their biology or chemistry training. Now that I am 6 months removed from engineering, I am itching to get back and apply what I have learned. In seeking how to write down that emotion, I realized: Engineering is a mindset, not a title.
The one thing I respect most about engineering is the innovation. We are always pushing the box to what can be designed next. An engineer is not an engineer because someone told her “You are now an engineer.” An engineer is an engineer, because she took the time to craft her critical thinking and had the grit needed to innovate a new product through to completion. This is the message I wanted to share with these young girls. No matter what profession they ultimately choose, they too can be engineers in their mindset. As stated in the video, future dancers can work with engineers to protect their joints; future teachers can work with engineers to model their students’ learning patterns for replication in other schools.
My main message to the entire room of these girls was that they can incorporate engineering wherever they go. If they choose engineering, that is amazing. But if they choose another field and help engineers learn where we can continue to innovate, that is amazing too.
My video presentation also includes testimonies from 8 SWE members and engineers who demonstrated their unique roles in engineering. I am very grateful for the SWE Facebook group and the network that helped me craft this presentation.