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Women in Engineering Profile: Jan Edwards

February 08, 2018
Source: ASM International

This profile series introduces lead­ing materials scientists from around the world who happen to be females. Here we speak with Jan Edwards, engineer­ing faculty at College of Lake County, Grayslake, Ill., and winner of the 2017 Allan Ray Putnam Service Award.

What does your typical workday look like?

My role as a faculty member at a community college is very student-centered. My day usually starts with prepara­tions for upcoming classes and grading papers. Then I’m off to the classroom to impart knowledge and work with stu­dents. They will continue to stop by my office throughout the day for homework help, general advising, and transfer information.

In the summer, I shift to a different student population and have fun exciting the next generation of students. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching LEGO-based courses, a City of Materials workshop, 3D Engineering Design, and Introduc­tion to Engineering courses.

What are you working on now?

I’m always working on additional STEM events that reach out to the community. In a few weeks, we will be hosting our annual Engineering Night. The evening kicks off with roundtable discussions where students interact with practicing engineers and learn more about their education, career, and typical day. We follow up with an opportunity to meet local engineering college representatives.

My contacts in the local ASM Chapter provide me with at least one great representative for materials science. I also leverage resources from the ASM Materials Education Foun­dation when conducting outreach.

What’s been your biggest challenge?

The technology that our students use now and will be using in their careers opens so many avenues of explora­tion. As a small department with just two full-time faculty, we keep busy learning what’s new and determining which tools to acquire for our labs that will most benefit our stu­dents. We recently started developing an Innovation Lab for conducting prototype work.

What part of your job do you like most?

While working with students, there are two moments that make a lasting impression. The first is where you see that “aha” moment. A student’s level of excitement and con­fidence grows when they master a new concept. The sec­ond lasting moment is when you see a student successfully transfer to a university.

Did you ever consider doing something else with your life besides engineering?

At my first job, I transitioned from an engineering product support role to an engineering and customer edu­cation role. Later, I had the opportunity to participate in the inaugural ASM Foundation Materials Camp at the Dome. It didn’t take long to realize that I had a strong interest in edu­cation. Fortunately, I was able to combine engineering and education.

If a young person approached you for career advice about pursuing engineering, what would you tell them?

I think an engineering degree is great preparation for many possible career opportunities. I recommend keep­ing a balanced course schedule. While math and science make up the core of the degree, communication and lan­guage skills are essential to master as well. In addition, an internship or even volunteer work on engineering projects, can really solidify a student’s understanding of engineer-ing applications.


Camping, Kimudo, and spending time with my family.

Last book read?

“The Woman in Cabin 10” by Ruth Ware.

Learn more about ASM's Women in Materials Engineering Committee.

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