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Mechanical engineering not just for men anymore

Mechanical engineering not just for men anymore


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Candice Madsen reportingIf you know a "Smart Woman" or if you think you have an interesting Smart Woman topic, you can contact Candice at cmadsen@ksl.com.

One of BYU's newest engineering professors doesn't exactly fit the mold, that's because Dr. Vanderhoff is only 27 and female.

There's a high demand for mechanical engineers, but women hold less than 10 percent of the jobs; that has nothing to do with capability, just ask Professor Julie Vanderhoff."

A lot of girls grow up playing with dolls but not Julie Vanderhoff. She says, "When I was a little girl, I really loved planes and boats."

She says she was more interested in constructing and figuring out how things worked, and it ran in the family. Her father holds a Ph.D. in mathematics, and three of her brothers received engineering degrees. "That love for math and science and curiosity about the world was definitely in the home," Vanderhoff says.

Mechanical engineering not just for men anymore

She may have fit right in at home, but as a volleyball player in college, her love of math and science made her stand out.

She says, "I got teased by some of my teammates for getting on the plane and doing calculus."

In a classroom full of men, Dr. Vanderhoff still stands out. She says, "I think there was some interest and maybe a little surprise." But she doesn't mind. She enjoys her field and believes more woman would, if they understood what it entails.

Associate Dean Spencer Magleby agrees and says society would be better off if more women became engineers. "Values of our society are embodied in the products and processes that engineers create around us," says Magleby. "So we would like to see more input from half of the world's population."

And in order to get more girls and women interested in engineering, they need more female role models; especially in faculty positions. Magleby says, "The issue is getting women started and having them feel there is a place for them, culturally and socially in engineering."

Vanderhoff says, "Exposing them to more than just classroom learning, physics, math. Let them see what they would actually do out in the real world." Mechanical engineers do a lot more than work on engines. In fact, along with math and science, mechanical engineers study social sciences and humanities. They also have to be really creative.

We'll have more on that coming up tomorrow on Studio 5, including a simple game that tests for aptitude.

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