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Engineering insights in five minutes or less

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Four prominent Lehigh Valley engineers and members of the Lehigh Valley Society of Women Engineers recently shared some of their insights on the profession.

They are: Christine Gerveshi, a chip design engineer at Intel Americas Inc.; Elizabeth Helsel, an engineer at Rettew Associates; Heather Megivern Schenk, a senior product engineer at Air Products; and Mary Rooney, an environmental consultant and owner of EnviroAce.

The following has been edited for length and clarity. 

Q: What trends do you notice in engineering?

Gerveshi: Tech industry buzzwords are artificial intelligence and virtual reality. It’s a great time for the next generation of engineers with skills in those fields.

Schenk: Engineering is much less linear than it’s stereotyped to be. I love the creative focus that is becoming more prominent in engineering programs and companies’ initiatives. Embracing and empowering diversity is key to unlocking creativity and innovation in engineering.

Q: What invention do you foresee being around in 20 years that’s not yet commonly adapted?

Gerveshi: I’m banking on autonomous driving (and working to make that happen). I am hopefully part of the first generation of drivers to keep their independence without being a burden or a danger to others.

Schenk: I’m excited for self-driving cars. Think of all the time we’ll get back. Do work, pay bills, read books, catch up on emails/texts. Plus, it will eliminate human errors and unsafe driving behaviors, making everyone safer.

Q: What’s the most exciting engineering project you’ve worked on?

Helsel: I’ve been involved in design and project management of solar arrays, including floating solar projects in New Jersey. These projects are fast-paced; it’s exciting to work with new, innovative technology.

Rooney: I am working with Fiabila USA in New Jersey on construction of possibly the largest nail-polish manufacturing facility in the U.S. The small size of the bottle belies the engineering steps involved in the safe creation of the product and management of air emissions. Visiting the lab and seeing hundreds of colors in clear bottles on the shelves is very cool.

Q: Do you recommend any engineering related books?

Rooney: “The Great Bridge” by David McCullough is a fascinating story not only of building a bridge but also of building all the systems (engineered and financial), and the determination to carry the project through. After reading the book, go to Brooklyn, walk across the bridge and get a great meal. It’s a fun New York City outing seeing the book take life.

Q: Do you have a good engineering joke?

Helsel: To the optimist the glass is half full, to the pessimist the glass is half empty and to the engineer the glass is twice the size it needs to be.

Schenk: I wish I had a good chemical engineering joke but all the good ones Argon.

Q: What makes the Lehigh Valley an interesting place for engineering?

Gerveshi: The Lehigh Valley is big enough to support cutting-edge technology, but small enough that engineers tend to stay here. This has allowed our local tech companies to develop amazing, world-class depth in their areas of expertise.

Q: What recent Society of Women Engineer activities have you enjoyed?

Gerveshi: I love spending time with this wonderful group of like-minded women. Females make up 20 percent or less of electrical engineers; it gets lonely. So, STEM outreach to girls is a favorite SWE activity.

Helsel: I love being an active part of the outreach we do as a group. Last year we held the first Eyer Middle School Girls in STEM Night for about 25 girls. We shared stories and advice about engineering, did hands-on activities, and ate LIN ice cream.

Schenk: I love the development, outreach and professional opportunities. Best of all is meeting and getting to know wonderful and impressive women engineers. My favorite activity was touring the Just Born factory and getting to try Peeps fresh off the production line.

Q: If you had to do a report on an engineer, who would you choose?

Rooney: You can’t beat Marie and Irene Curie; a mother/daughter team with three Nobel prizes between them!

Brianne Santarelli is a member of the Society of Women Engineers. She works for Air Products.

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