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Women in STEM Q&A: Erin Keys

March 14, 2014

Headshot of Erin Keys

Erin Keys is an IGERT Fellow (Graduate Research Assistant) with Webber Energy Group at UT Austin

Was there a person in your life that encouraged you in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and/or to enter your specific field? If so, please tell us a little bit about how she/he encouraged you:

Two people in particular encouraged me to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering. One of these influential people was my high school chemistry teacher, and the other influential person was my father.

Mrs. Cohlmia, my high school chemistry teacher, pushed me to stew on concepts individually before asking others for help. Although complying with her wish was challenging (and annoying!) in the beginning, I started to realize the magnitude of my analytical abilities. From that realization, I grew a love for problem solving. My father, as an engineer by training, served as more of a role model for me. That, and while driving through Texas on the way to his hometown, he would underline the fact that "you need to major in mechanical engineering" in response to my question wondering "what do I need to study in order to work with wind turbines?"

What is your favorite thing about your field?

My favorite thing about working in science and technology is the ability to influence pertinent issues facing humanity. Whether you are a designer, salesperson, or manager, you are touching some of the most important products and services of the modern world. With that power comes a lot of responsibility, and the potential to have a positive impact on your contemporaries as well as future generations.

Why is confidence in STEM important for girls?

STEM fields need women. Females and males approach problem solving differently, and each brings unique perspectives to a team. Females are often more detail oriented and conservative with respect to risk-taking. These tendencies can bode well in an industry whose products and services can have such enormous ramifications -- both positive and negative -- on human life and the environment.

What do you think should be done to encourage the next generation of girls in STEM?

Encouraging females in STEM takes early emersion in science and technology through toys and games aimed at problem solving. When girls develop confidence in their analytical abilities as children, they are more likely to pursue STEM careers later in life.