Nancy Magnani - 2015 SPIE Women in Optics Planner
Grant Facilitator/Science Specialist, EASTCONN, USA
Country of Birth: USA
Educational Background: BSc Industrial Technology, Western Washington University, USA
I entered college as a music major but was searching for something else. My brother was a civil engineer and kept telling me that engineering had so many great opportunities for women.
In the summers, I had several engineering internships and finally agreed with him. I was able to have a career designing fiber optic systems and play music, too.
I've had a unique opportunity to transfer my engineering skills to a career in education; I facilitate STEM programs for a regional education service center in northeastern Connecticut. Each year, I work with 450-550 grade 4 to high school students. I plan and provide content lessons, arrange for guest speakers and field trips, and write grants for funding. Because of my engineering background, I have been able to provide authentic and realistic lessons which provide students with a better understanding of STEM topics.
My current programs are Robotics, Solar and Wind Energy, and Making Waves. There is so much variety - one day I am teaching Lego robotics to 4th graders and the next day I could be building solar cars or designing wind turbine blades with 8th graders. This year I started a new program, Making Waves, which uses visual arts to reinforce learning about the principles of optics. For example, students learned about how colors interact by studying Josef Albers and then the lesson was for them to create artwork in that style to demonstrate their understanding.
It was extremely beneficial for me to have an engineering supervisor who was also my mentor. I worked in a very traditional engineering group and a mentor provided opportunities I would not have found on my own. I don't think a mentor has to be in your engineering discipline but can be anyone who will help you over the rough spots of starting a career.
I would advise girls to try engineering. Some of the girls that I work with think it would be boring or that they may not be smart enough and do not understand how many different engineering fields are available. I lead many hands-on workshops in which we explore different aspects of engineering and they find out that it is really fun. Because of engineering, I have had many amazing opportunities to travel nationally and internationally and meet interesting people.