What drew you to the rubber industry, and what has made your career in the industry rewarding?
While working at Goodyear, I was exposed to polymers, specifically rubber. I wanted to learn more, so I went to graduate school for Polymer Science at the University of Akron. I am now quite interested in understanding natural rubber, which has been studied for many, many years, but is not fully characterized.
In the industry, I have met many great people. Also, the field of rubber science/engineering is so large that one can continually discover more.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
Although I have worked on many interesting projects with rubber, my science education outreach to middle school students has been quite rewarding. Seeing the younger generation excited about rubber science is extremely satisfying! A great achievement of mine was starting a mentoring program with undergraduate students helping middle school students in Akron Public Schools and Kent City Schools with science/engineering fair projects.
What do you count as your biggest failure and what has it taught you?
In college, I often was distracted by college life (even at CWRU!) and should have dedicated more time to studying subjects that I was not as interested in, such as electrical circuits. Later, while a post-doctoral research associate in Polymer Science, I was involved in maintaining computer hardware. A better knowledge of circuits would have been helpful. Occasionally, this has happened since college, too. I try to remind myself now that it is best to take advantage of all learning opportunities, even if they are not in a formal setting.
Who or what inspires you?
I am inspired by the younger generation, especially my two daughters that are in careers they love and who worked very hard through school to get into these careers. Often the younger generation is portrayed negatively. However, I have met through science outreach activities many hard-working, extremely intelligent youngsters (much smarter than me) with amazing goals that give me hope for our future.
Who were your career mentors, and what role did they play?
My research adviser, Wayne L. Mattice, was extremely hardworking and focused on his research. He was my post-doctoral adviser, too. This position was after I had taken a few years at home to raise my daughters. He gave me an opportunity to get back into my career, because back in the mid-90s, women often had many challenges to keep a career and be a dedicated mother. Also, several successful women (Judit Puskas and Katrina Cornish) in rubber have provided excellent role models for me.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
When you ask for something, you can always be told "No." But if you do not ask, the answer is always "No."
If you were CEO of a company, what would you do first?
My first goal would be to assemble a team with skills I lack and who would be smarter than I am. I do not believe that anyone succeeds on their own, but we build on what is accomplished by others.
What would you tell someone considering a career in the rubber industry?
The rubber industry has such a huge variety of career possibilities; there is something for everyone!
In your opinion, what needs to be done to encourage females to pursue STEM-related careers?
Women in STEM need to take time to volunteer for events, such as science/engineering fairs or speaking at schools, for young girls to see role models and that scientists and engineers are not old, white males. In addition, everyone needs to encourage young girls to be curious and ask questions about the natural world and encourage them to consider all career options.