The first faculty feature for Women in Science week is Nina Hinds, lead tutor in the Academic Support department. She shared about her previous career experience and gave advice to students who are interested in pursuing STEM themselves.
What is your background in science? I went to USC and then I graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology with a bachelor’s of science in chemical engineering and got a master’s in business from University of Chicago. My internships were important because I had a chance to see utility work, government work and corporate work – I interned for the Environmental Protection Agency and Northern Illinois Gas. When I started working full-time, the majority of my time as an engineer was with Miller Brewing Company. I worked in the plant side for many years and then I moved to corporate engineering where I actually traveled throughout the country to help install equipment on the Genuine Draft line. At that point it wasn’t straight chemical engineering, but it became more project engineering and mechanical engineering.
What originally got you interested in science and engineering? My father was a real techy kind of guy, and so he always talked to me about things like heat exchange and heat transfer. I did well in math and science, and my high school teachers were very supportive. I gravitated towards math and science because I felt like some of the other fields were very subjective. I think, especially as a woman, being in a field where your work speaks for itself. It’s based on facts rather than being left to someone else’s opinion about whether you should be accepted.
Did you feel pushback from anyone being a woman in engineering? Not really in the workforce, but definitely in college. I felt a lot of the professors did not really want women in the technical fields. Many were older men and they just didn’t take women as engineer’s seriously. And so many times they weren’t the most encouraging people. In fact, they were discouraging. In my chemical engineering class, I think only 4 out of 50 people were women.
Did this discouragement ever cause you to consider doing something else? I was raised to believe that if I worked hard according to the plan that God has for me, then I could do anything. I really believed that God showed me that engineering was what I was supposed to do. And so other people’s opinions on what they thought I could or could not do was just that – an opinion.
What’s something you would want to communicate to students today interested in pursuing STEM? I always encourage students to shadow a variety of different positions to get a feel for what they like. Talk to as many people as possible and see if you can go to work with them and see what they do. That will help you understand what opportunities are out there and what you may have an interest in