Lance Collins, the Joseph Silbert Dean of Engineering,
says that attracting an equal representation of the genders
is an important goal for Cornell Engineering and for the
entire scientific and research community.
“Engineering needs to be open and inclusive in order
to support a culture of discovery and creativity. It is well
known that diverse teams yield a wider range of ideas
that ultimately lead to better outcomes,” Collins says.
“Role models are a critical component to helping girls and
young women consider engineering careers. Role models
help break down the stereotypes of engineering and
showcase the real-life possibilities within the field.”
Inshera Abedin ’15 CEE, the co-leader of the Steel
Bridge team says that seeing other women in positions of
leadership had a tremendous impact on her.
“I am grateful for the confident women who have
taken on these roles and paved the way for me. The past
female leaders for the Steel Bridge have always been
role models for me,” Abedin says,. “It is inspiring to see
women taking on these roles and paving the way for the
rest of us.”
Cornell Racing saw the power of role models almost
immediately. Buchakjian says that since more women
have joined the team, there has been a noticeable increase
in the number of female prospects. “We’re guessing that
it has probably doubled from past years, ” she says. “I
can only assume why this has happened but I believe that
having more women leaders on our team seems more
approachable and more girls are willing to talk to us and
learn about the team.”
All student team members leave Cornell Engineering
with valuable real-world experience on their resumes.
Today, the opportunities in engineering make it one of
the most attractive fields for economic and job security.
Economic forecasts show that some of the greatest job
growth and best compensation will occur in engineering
and advanced technology-related fields, according to the
Society of Women Engineers.
“When students participate in these teams they
are acquiring an enhanced skill set that will serve them
well in jobs after graduation. The students are not just
graduating with fantastic degrees but they know how to
motivate team members, resolve conflict, and interact with
colleagues with a variety of skill levels,” says Macdonald.
“When I see these teams, I know I’m looking at the future
leaders of engineering.”
2015 Cornell Racing engineering student project team outside of
Rhodes Hall, Fall 2014.
IMPACT OF CORNELL
Erin Fischell ‘10 MAE guides the CUAUV into the water for a
Erin Fischell ’10 MAE feels very strongly about the
benefits of working on a student team.
“That was an important part of my undergraduate
experience,” said Fischell. “You get the experiential learning
and the opportunity to work on real engineering issues in
these large, multifaceted teams that are similar to what you
experience in the real world.”
Fischell should know. She was a member of the Cornell
University Autonomous Underwater Vehicle for four years
and team leader in 2009 and 2010. Both years, the team won
the International RoboSub Competition.
Today she is enrolled in a joint Ph.D. program in
mechanical and ocean engineering at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technoogy with an appointment at the Woods
Hole Oceanographic Institute. Her research has focused
on acoustic sensing by autonomous underwater vehicles.
Looking back on her four years at Cornell Engineering and
her experience with the CUAUV, Fischell said it was an
invaluable experience that prepared her and her teammates
for post-grad life.
“Cornell does experiential learning better than anybody else and the program has only gotten better. I don’t
see anywhere else the kind of student-focused support that
Cornell Engineering provides. The students run the entire
teams, from ideas to execution to fundraising. This is one
reason students choose to come to Cornell and why they do
not have any trouble getting hired or getting into the grad
school of their choice. When I think of my teammates, they
are at Apple, Google, Amazon, SpaceX, and Honeywell
or studying at MIT, Carnegie Mellon University, Duke or
Stanford,” said Fischell.
Fischell echoes the sentiments of other women about
the challenges of being a female in a male-dominated field.
“In my experience there is an interesting duality in
being a woman in engineering. I believe that when you
prove your competence and do your job, people will always
accept you. But it takes more work as a woman to get your
foot in the door,” she said. “Additionally, there are positive
male attributes that are seen as a negative in a woman. An
assertive woman is called names.”
But Fischell said that the experience of working on the
student teams is crucial to building confidence for young
“If you don’t feel confident, you might not open your
mouth or speak up and give your opinion. But while working on CUAUV, I got experience while working with and
then leading my fellow engineering students.”