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Making space for women in engineering

For undergraduate mechanical engineering student Cassidy Serger, the seemingly endless possibilities for engineering have captivated her and her research.

Serger has a strong interest in energy engineering, while pursuing research in electrical engineering and currently studying abroad to take courses in biomedical engineering. While she has been exploring the intersectionality of her interests, she has simultaneously been heavily involved in the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). 

Because she is currently studying abroad in Ireland, Serger has had to take a step back from SWE. She is, however, committed to not only including more women in engineering, but creating safe and welcoming opportunities for them to lead, learn and prosper. 

“We need to implement diversity in an ethical way. We cannot add more women without making a space that is more welcoming,” said Serger. 

Serger chose her major because she had a natural ability in math and science. While she excelled in her courses and began to carve out her specific interests within mechanical engineering, she quickly discovered that engineering is very male dominated. 

“Young women are not shown engineering as a [career] option…I wasn’t shown engineering as a career option,” reflected Serger. 

Her goal as a member of SWE is to create opportunities for young girls and women to learn about engineering and other STEM-related careers. One of the missions of the organization is to educate the next generation of future engineers, which struck a chord with Serger. As a result, she chose to join SWE’s Outreach Committee. 

The Outreach Committee was focused on sharing their knowledge and experiences with young, elementary-aged girls to introduce and normalize engineering as a potential career option. As a result, the committee spearheaded a virtual teaching series, inviting local youth to participate in hands-on engineering activities remotely. Serger led the session to build bridges using dried spaghetti and marshmallows. 

“It was challenging getting the students to engage with us online, so I asked my younger sisters to do the activity next to me to make it look like the participants had a live audience,” said Serger. 

Serger explained that exposing girls to engineering needs to start young, and the women who are currently in the community need to collaborate to ensure it is welcoming when those young people join the profession. She hopes that careers in STEM can be normalized for young women. Simultaneously, she hopes to reduce barriers for women in engineering. 

She admits that she sometimes struggles with feeling comfortable in the engineering space. 

“You cannot be afraid to stand up for yourself,” said Serger, remembering a time when she had to assert her own leadership. 

While she is excelling through her undergraduate career and working towards a more equitable environment for women in STEM, Serger is also a Russ Legacy Cutler Scholar and an active participant in intramural sports. She leads by example as an engaged and thoughtful student who seeks out new opportunities to learn and explore concepts that can change the world. 

After graduation, she hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in fluids research, which is where all her engineering interests intersect. In fact, it was a presenter at a SWE conference who exposed Serger to the possibilities of using fluids in energy research. Through an internship, she explored working with complex fluids to extract energy from nonrenewable resources. 

Learning from her mentors in SWE have allowed Serger to discover and pursue her own academic interests. As she continues to stay involved in the organization, Serger hopes to continue to support young women in engineering the same way she has felt supported by her peers and mentors in SWE.

Learn more about Society of Women Engineers at this website.