75 Reasons to Become a Scientist
American Scientist celebrates its seventy-fifth anniversary
Why would a teenaged girl in the 1940s choose engineering? An intersection of several significant factors: unexpected enjoyment of high school chemistry (taken only to fulfill a requirement); later, college physics and answers to lifelong questions about how the world works (plus many I had not yet thought to ask). But physics required a Ph.D. and the jobs were academic. The teenager rejected such outcomes, selecting a favorite aspect of 1940s physics and a 4-year electrical engineering curriculum which promised interesting jobs. It would have been difficult without a role model—my mother, a college math major then country school teacher. My parents were surprised by my choice, but accepting, as I was. Ten years after graduation I entered Stanford for graduate study, emerging with academic career goals. Engineering has been exciting, hard, fun, and satisfying. It has taken me to such places as the Antarctic interior, north Alaskan slope, and outer Aleutians. The teenager who didn’t know very much made the right choice.
Irene C. Peden
Professor of Electrical Engineering
University of Washington
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