Why I’m Sticking with Academia

Taking this course has forced me to reflect on whether or not I really want to continue pursuing a career in academia. Despite seeing the rampant misconduct and negative impacts on mental health, it is still currently something that I want to pursue. I want to pursue academia in order to continue to help diversify the academy as a Latina, improve engineering education and ensure that we are developing socially conscious engineers, and to encourage more interdisciplinary studies.

Through all of my higher education experience, I have only had one Latina professor which has been discouraging to say the least. I want the next generation of students to see a more diverse and representative academy, especially as the population of Hispanics/Latinxs is projected to continue to grow. Additionally, having a more diverse faculty means that the burden of supporting diversity and inclusion will not fall to one faculty member.

Another reason I am drawn to academia is to reform engineering education. I studied chemical engineering in undergrad and I was routinely frustrated by how we discussed large-scale engineering operations and profits but not environmental impacts or societal impacts. This needs to change in the future if we want to see engineers making more responsible decisions. Engineers also need to have a more hands-on education. I went years during my undergraduate education without seeing a reactor in person, or learning how to use basic power tools and equipment. In my opinion, we are currently not adequately preparing engineering students for life outside of school.

Finally, I want to go into academia to support more interdisciplinary studies. Over the past couple of years I have become really interested in science policy and I think more students should be exposed to it. As a faculty member, I anticipate creating interdisciplinary courses to expose engineering students to policy and alternate career paths.

This being said, I think that my trajectory towards academia has changed. Originally, I thought I would pursue a traditional post-doc and apply for academic jobs. Now I’m planning to apply for the AAAS Science Technology & Policy Fellowship after graduation to gain more experience in that area, and either pursue a more traditional post-doc position or work for the EPA for a couple years to gain real-world experience before applying to academic jobs. I think that this will allow me to better serve my future students.

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