Isabella Delgado, a USF electrical engineering student, said she feels lonely due to a lack of female peers and women mentors.
“It is a bit of a lonely career path for a woman,” Delgado said. “It would be nice to see more female professors.”
The Project on Women Engineers’ Retention (POWER) last March surveyed more than 30 female college undergraduates and found women are less likely than men to remain in the engineering field. The results showed that one in 10 men leave the engineering career field compared with about one in four women who leave by the time they are in their thirties. Because of this, women are still the minority.
To find out why women are less likely to remain engineering professionals, the American Sociological Association (ASA) conducted a 2011 review that found female engineers’ lack of “professional role confidence” contributes to their leaving.
“Professional role confidence refers to one’s own sense that they belong in a certain field,” said Sanjukta Bhanja, a USF professor of electrical engineering.
Nine percent of USF undergraduate electrical engineering majors for the fall 2011 semester are female.
Similarly, 18 percent of masters and doctoral USF electrical engineering students are female, according to a USF information center summary trend report.
“As much as I love engineering, I feel a family is more rewarding than work and would place emphasis on my family,” said Delgado. “I plan to finish with a master’s degree, work for a few years before starting a family and possibly rejoin the workforce if I feel I can balance the two.”
Taylor Morris, a USF engineering undergraduate, initially completed her general engineering credits at the University of Florida. “I was frequently met with doubt and rolled eyes from some of the male students.”
Morris decided to transfer to USF because she had heard that the electrical engineering department had a great reputation for equal and fair treatment of students.
Professional organizations such as the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers branch of Women in Engineering (WIE) exist to promote empowerment, success and advancement in the field of engineering.
Founded in 1952, SWE aims to provide a forum for women engineers to succeed as a minority in a male-saturated field. Similarly, WIE is the largest international professional organization dedicated to promoting women engineers and scientists.
Dr. Bhanja believes her membership in WIE has helped her self-esteem. “It makes me feel connected and has changed my perception of the environment, after realizing many women are in a similar situation,” she said.
Professor Christos Ferekides of the USF electrical engineering department teaches his Laboratory 1: Circuits course. Electrical engineering students, from left, David Touvell, Justin Mzcrowski and Isabella Delgado are being shown the “pulse trains” on the digital phosphorus oscilloscope, which they have transmitted using signals from a TV remote control.
“Seeing the charactertistics of the signal emitted by the remote control and how your everyday TV remote communicates with other devices is interesting,” said Touvell.
Ferekides explains that the main objective of this lab was to give his students the opportunity to design and implement an experimental procedure given only a list of topics and questions that each lab pair must investigate.
“Working with IR transmitters and receivers and observing their signal characteristics is something everyone has experienced, but just have not realized,” said Delgado. “If you’ve ever put your hand in front of your remote control or have had something blocking your cable box, you’ve witnessed this experiment in a nutshell.” As the second to last lab of the semester in Laboratory 1: Circuits, these electrical engineering students will soon graduate to Laboratory 2: Electronics.
USF’s Clean Energy Research Center is moving toward the creation of a newer and bigger solar panel grid that could supply vehicles with 24-hours of energy at an affordable price, said center Director Elias Stefanakos
The center established the nation’s first 20,000-watt, solar-electric charging station for electric vehicles in 1995. This followed a 1991 selection of the center by the Florida Energy Office to develop a state-of-the art electric car and charging station, according to the center’s website.
The charging station was completed in 1996 and the first electric vehicles arrived on campus in 1997. Both the solar powered charging station and test facility were the firsts of their kind in the United States, according to USF’s College of Engineering website.
But according to the Clean Energy Research Center’s website, the original fleet of vehicles are now outdated since newer hybrid vehicles have been designed. Stefanakos said no additional land will be needed for new solar panel grids, as they can be built over the top of existing parking lots.
Being awarded more than $15 million in contracts and grants over the past 10 years has allowed the center to continue its resource conservation research, according to the center’s website
Stefanakos said he continues to direct his research department toward alternative energy sources. His projects include improving hydrogen storage for hydrogen fueled vehicles and figuring out how to turn Tampa’s trash into clean energy. His research is focused on conserving energy and revolutionizing how we use power for our daily use.
“You don’t waste energy,” Stefanakos said. “You increase efficiency and you reduce the impact of our generation.”
Stephanie Martell, an environmental science major and Department of Energy Student Ambassador, said the next big jump in energy conservation will occur in the biofuels sector.
“Whether through algae or vegetable oil, the biofuels sector has much room to grow, especially with cars causing terrible pollution that affects human health,” Martell said. “The applications and activities for going green are endless, and their relevance and importance will only increase as the need for renewable energy grows.”
Stefanokos said with him at the helm, USF will continue to be in the forefront of alternative energy research.
TAMPA – When Derek Seroky accepted the check from the Navy for $180,000 as a college freshmen, becoming an electrical engineer was the farthest thing from his mind.
Seroky had every intention of living the Navy lifestyle, serving his country and being a pilot until being told otherwise due to his inaccurate vision.
Until Seroky visited the University of South Florida, he thought he had his life plan figured out. The scholarship would be used to help pay for tuition at Embry Riddle Aeronautical Academy, where $28,000 is the price tag for one year of school.
Seroky was no longer ready to commit to a dream that would put him in debt and had no immediate benefits. He then declared his major as an electrical engineer.
“I decided that if I wanted to go to the Navy, I’d just do it after college. I’d just go though Officer Candidacy School and then go from there,” he said.
He never thought his vision would control what he wanted in life but “dreams change. It sounds corny but these are the situations that make you believe everything happens for a reason.”
Seroky explains the tough prerequisites of qualifying to be a Navy pilot. “You have to have no allergies, be asthma free and vision corrected to 20/20. You have to be between certain heights, have normal color vision and meet other physical weight requirements. It’s no joke.”
Becoming an electrical engineer is no joke, either. Seroky still has the ability to incorporate his love of flying. “ I could be a flight engineer or work for small or large private jets, government agencies, the U.S. Air Force, etc. To be honest, the possibilities are endless.”
Despite his dreams being revised, Seroky can see his future clearly.