Q+A with Jennifer Carter

In December of 2015, International Women and Girls Day in Science was to recognize the critical role women and girls play in science and technology. To celebrate, the Case School of Engineering is sharing stories of remarkable women across the quad from students to faculty. Learn about their research, their journey to engineering and the advice they have for other women. 

Jennifer Carter

Associate Professor
Materials Science and Engineering

Provide a short description of your research area.

My research focuses on understanding how heat and pressure can be used to engineer materials that are resistant to extreme environments like jet engines and nuclear reactors.

Why did you pursue engineering as a career?

I pursued engineering because I got stuck on space mountain at Disney World as a kid and got a behind-the-scenes tour of the ride as we were escorted safely off. It was amazing to see how you could blend theatricality and engineer to inspire joy and wonder.

What is your favorite or the most meaningful thing about being an engineer?

Engineers change society.

Were there women in STEM who came before you who helped influence you to pursue this field? If so, who were they and how did they impact you?

Even though there are still few women in engineering fields, I have found that we make the fiercest allies and thus I can name several women that influenced my life.

My mother is a retired electrical communications engineer, she was one of 11 women to graduate with an engineering degree at her university in 1979. She taught me that you can have a career your love and the family you want if you have the support to make the necessary compromises.

There was my sorority big-sister who motivated me to get an internship on campus, and Prof. Joanna Groza who offered me that first internships opportunity. They inadvertently helped me find a joy in understanding how materials fail, and motivated my third major change in my undergraduate career.

Today, it is the undergraduates that inspire me to continue to pursue this field. They are going to have a responsibility and the agency to change how we work. For example, the young women on the softball team (I am the academic advisor) remind me each day that we are powerful and that your sisters-by-choice can help you find balance.

What is your best advice for young women pursuing a career in engineering?

Remember to take a moments to remember your purpose and if the institution you work for doesn't match find somewhere else to be; have compassion for yourself and others because we are all trying to do our best; make connections with your sisters-by-choice because they are there to help you remember that you are amazing even when you are struggling; and only you can maintain balance because the world will always ask for more from you that you can give.