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Introduce a girl to engineering day
February 22, 2024

Introduce a girl to Mechanical Engineering day

Written By: Caitlin Scott



February 22, 2024 is ‘Introduce a Girl to Engineering‘ day! We’re excited to highlight some of the inspirational women, from undergraduate students to professors and alumnae, that make up our UW Mechanical Engineering community. See even more on our Instagram.

Kate Fu, she/her

  • Associate Professor Mechanical Engineering
  • How did you learn about your field?
    I learned about ME when my brother chose to major in it in college.  He was two years older than me, so it was a great introduction – and showed me that I could do it too!
  • Advice to future (women) engineers/Advice to your younger self
    – Always go to class – if you miss class, you’re setting yourself to have a hard time. 
    – Develop relationships with your professors – they are excited to get to know you and can teach you so much more than what they cover in the classroom. 
    – Get a study group or study buddy – your classes will be so much easier if you can learn from and with your friends.
    – There are so many careers you can have with an engineering degree – explore and find something that fits with your passions!

Kate Fu undergrad
Kate Fu at her undergraduate graduation from Brown University in 2007
Megan Mulrooney
Megan Mulrooney at the National Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Conference as a part of the Boeing Tech Team

Megan Mulrooney, she/her

  • Junior Mechanical Engineering student also working towards a Data Science Certificate
  • How did you learn about your field?
    I started at UW-Madison as an “Engineering – Undecided” major. I enjoyed math and science, but I did not know which field of engineering was right for me. I took an interdisciplinary engineering course during my first semester. With a small group, I had the pleasure of modifying a children’s toy mobility car for a 3-year-old client who experiences muscular dystrophy. My professor and my academic advisor steered me towards Mechanical Engineering because it is a broad degree that will allow me to continue to design products with meaningful impact.
  • What do you wish you had known when you were younger?
    You are more qualified than you think. Apply to jobs, scholarships, or programs that are outside your comfort zone. You cannot be given an opportunity you do not ask for, and you may be surprised which opportunities lead to others.

Allison Mahvi, she/her

  • Assistant Professor Mechanical Engineering
  • How did you learn about your field?
    I learned about engineering in general from a personality/career test I took in middle school.  When I took the test, it told me I should be an engineer, which I didn’t know anything about.  In high school, I spent one summer learning about engineering in a lab at UW.  The professor was a mechanical engineer and told me it was a broad type of engineering where I could do anything, so I jumped in and loved it!
  • What do you wish you had known when you were younger?
    I wish I knew not to stress too much about making the right decision every time.  When it comes to your career path, there are lots of ways to be successful and happy.  Ultimately choosing one path doesn’t necessarily close the door to all others.  If you keep an open mind and try things, you often find that lots of things are really interesting, fun, and ultimately interconnected.  If you think it is interesting, then you will probably have a good time doing it!
Allison Mahvi graduation
Allison Mahvi at her undergraduate graduation from UW-Madison in 2012

Liz Pollack
Liz Pollack at the DTE Power Plant in Monroe, MI during summer 2016 for her first internship after freshman year.

Liz Pollack, she/her

  • 2nd year PhD student in Mechanical Engineering, TA for Geometric Modeling for Design and Manufacturing course
  • How did you learn about your field?
    I always had an affinity towards science, math, and design. When I was deciding on a college major, counselors, mentors and advisors suggested I apply for mechanical engineering. When I was near the end of my bachelor’s degree, I felt like I had more I wanted to learn within mechanical engineering and many more things I wanted to understand about how engineers design solutions to complex problems. I was encouraged to seek a graduate degree because that is where you can ask questions that don’t yet have answers.
  • Advice to future (women) engineers/Advice to your younger self
    I think in grad school, a lot of Engineers forget that they are also humans and end up dedicating most of their waking hours to their research and education. My advice for young engineers (women, men, or otherwise) is to enjoy the present. To settle into where you are at and know you will move, learn and do what you need to move, learn and do in due time.

Patti Venner, she/her

  • Global Test Engineering Manager for John Deere Tractors, BSME’99, member of the UW ME Industrial Advisory Board
  • What do you do?
    My team ensures that our tractors are tested & meet the very highest levels of quality & performance before going to our customers. We test our tractors around the world in countries such as the US, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, India, Germany, Denmark & China.
  • How did you learn about your field?
    My dad was my guidance counselor in high school & my brother was a mechanical engineer from UW-Madison. They both recognized that I enjoyed math & science & they made me aware of the field of engineering. They also explained to me that I could do almost anything with a Mechanical Engineering degree because everyone is looking for problem solvers within their organizations.
  • Advice to future (women) engineers/Advice to your younger self
    Get some hands on experience by participating in engineering clubs while in college. I didn’t realize how much I loved engineering until I started working with tools & in the labs. This also helped me understand systems & made me a stronger engineer.
Patti Venner
Patti Venner at an Intro a Girl to Engineering event at John Deere.

Kate Nelson
Kate Nelson

Kate Nelson, she/her

  • 3rd year Mechanical Engineering student, Faustin-Prinz undergraduate research fellow
  • What do you wish you had known when you were younger?
    I wish I had taken more hands-on courses in high school, like woodworking, welding, or a shop class. There have been times in my college courses when I struggled with the vocabulary because I did not have practical experience where I may have learned these terms like some of my male peers.
  • Advice to future (women) engineers/Advice to your younger self
    If you are fortunate enough to have a female engineering professor, do not be afraid to introduce yourself and ask them to be a mentor. They can most likely relate to your experience as a minority in engineering and can share the tools that helped them to succeed in meeting their goals.

Pavana Prabhakar, she/her

  • Charles G. Salmon Associate Professor Mechanical Engineering
  • How did you learn about your field?
    Growing up, I was fascinated with flying and aspired to become an Air Force pilot. However, in my home country, women could not enroll in the academy at that time. This made me think, what if I cannot fly them? Can I make them? And make them well? This motivated me to pursue aerospace structures and materials and learn about composite materials.
  • Advice to future (women) engineers/Advice to your younger self:
    Have conviction, and work towards your goal. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are not good enough or not capable of achieving your dreams.
Pavana Prabhakar
Pavana Prabhakar and family at her Masters graduation from Berkeley in 2008.

Learn more about DiscoverE’s ‘Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day‘ 2024 and check out the awesome event the UW Department of Nuclear Engineering and Engineering Physics (NEEP) is hosting!