September 29, 2015

Every year, more and more female students are enrolling in the LSU College of Engineering. Erica Pater, the College’s assistant manager of external relations, had the opportunity to talk with Erika Capone, a 2011 alumna who now works as an environmental engineer, about her experience as a female student studying chemical engineering at LSU.

Q: Were you a declared engineering major when you were first enrolled at LSU?
A: I was an engineering major from start to finish! With my love for math and science, I knew it was what I wanted to do, especially chemical engineering.

Q. Did you feel you were at a disadvantage being a female engineering student?
A. I honestly did not feel l was treated any differently as a female engineering student. Fortunately, my class of chemical engineers had a good amount of female students. I never felt like I was in a male dominated field of study. We were all treated the same and graded fairly. It made no difference whether we were male or female, which said a lot about the LSU chemical engineering program. It was also refreshing to know that the amazing women I graduated with were all paving the way for young girls to study engineering and not feel like a minority.

Q. Why do you think there is such a difference in enrollment numbers for male and females in engineering?
A. I wish the enrollment numbers of females in engineering were higher. Girls lose interest in math and science at such a young age. It isn’t “cool” to study those things and be smart. It is so important that girls know this is something they can do and keep them interested.

Q. When did you realize your interest in math and science?
A. I've always had an interest in math. It has always come very easy to me so I enjoy doing it. My first chemistry class in high school was when I learned to love science. A lot of it had to do with how hands-on science can be. … Something about watching chemical reactions happen in front of you is so much more interesting than reading about it in a book.

Q. Once you graduated, how did the job market treat you?
A. I’d say that the job market is definitely one of the things female engineers have on our side. Because engineering is such a male-dominated industry, a lot of companies are looking to hire females. Having a job lined up by graduation was not an issue.

Q. What is your current role at Chicago Bridge and Iron in Houston, Texas?
A. I'm an Environmental Engineer. I do consulting work for oil and gas companies mainly. I deal with developing air permits and handling environmental compliance tasks for our clients.

Q. Do you have a personal plan to expand the workforce of younger female engineers?
A. Recently, I was able to volunteer my time at a CB&I event where we got to do fun projects related to math and science with elementary age girls along with other female coworkers. We talked with them about what we do and hopefully were able to get them more interested in becoming an engineer one day.

Q. What advice would you give to female engineering students who are just starting school, applying for internships, or applying for jobs?
A. Advice I would give to female engineering students would be just to study hard and do your best. Keep at it and don’t give up. It is really tough, and you’ll see other girls in different majors with a lot more free time on their hands, but it will be worth it.


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