Joan Malcolm-Albee, Biomedical Engineer
Q: How did you know about The Jackson Laboratory as a possible place to work?
A: I worked on a whale-watching boat in Bar Harbor the summer after my freshman year at the University of Maine. Every day we’d pass Highseas [The Jackson Laboratory’s seaside mansion], and the guide would talk a little about the Lab. When I went back to school I asked questions and kept my eyes open. I was fortunate to get an internship, then do my senior project here.
Q: What’s your most interesting project right now?
A: I have a lot on my plate now, but soon I’ll be spending a lot of time developing a method for improving in vitro fertilization. The tools of IVF have changed little since IVF was first developed about 40 years ago, and what we want to do is take a labor- and equipment-intensive process and create a “set it and forget it” system. I can see our work having a significant impact throughout the research community. It will make IVF not only easier and more efficient but more effective as well.
Q: You’re in a specialized field. What were your career goals heading into college?
A: I grew up in Gardiner, Maine, and our family doctor inspired me to go into medicine—family practice. But when I went to the University of Maine I wanted to incorporate math with the biology, and that’s how I came to biomedical engineering.
Q: Do you like living in the area?
A: I dreamed of living here after my first summer. I feel extremely fortunate to have gotten such a terrific, challenging job in my field in Bar Harbor. Outside of work I love outdoor activities, and you can’t beat having Acadia National Park right outside your door.
Q: So you plan to stay for a while?
A: My work here has given me the confidence to pursue a Ph.D. in a biomedical engineering program, so I expect I’ll have to leave at some point. But my husband has a local family business and ultimately we want to return here.
Stephanie Yum, Chemical Engineer
Why chemical engineering?
I decided to be a chemical engineer after I took basic high school chemistry. I felt comfortable doing chemistry; it was like a calling. From then on, I knew I wanted a career in which I applied chemistry. I thanked my high school chemistry teacher, Helen Steele, for teaching in a way that
really showed me how important chemistry is to everyday life and making it incredibly interesting.
Tell me about your involvement in UMaine’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).
I joined SWE immediately when I came to college. I am very passionate about being a woman in engineering and science. When I decided to be a chemical engineer, I knew I was going to spend my life in science. To me, it’s absurd to think that women are put off by science for any reason,
and I want them to see it in a different manner. That’s why I and other SWE members are involved in outreach to girls through the Engineering Expo and Girl Scout Badge Day. Events like these are important because they get girls thinking about science and engineering. I want them to put down the dolls and Easy-Bake Ovens and play with circuits and chemistry sets so they can see that they’re really fun and interesting.
What’s your advice to girls thinking about engineering?
Engineering is a great career choice. There’s so much need for engineers. We’re like the modern inventor — we develop the things people need to use every day. If you’re a problem solver, engineering is the best field to pursue.
What was it like interning at Sappi Fine Paper’s Westbrook, Maine, mill in summer ‘09 and spring‘10?
As an intern, I applied my theoretical academic background and got practical knowledge. I’m a much better engineer as a result of my six months there. I learned so much. I shadowed a technical engineer and worked on projects with many of the engineers in the company. They made me feel I was an engineer, thinking on my own. I also was encouraged to find my own projects and follow through with my ideas.
You’ve had other internship offers?
I was offered a process engineering internship with Frito-Lay in Connecticut and I interviewed with Kimberly-Clark in California. But I couldn’t take any more internships because I need to finish my coursework to graduate on time.
Where are you headed after May graduation?
I’m considering either graduate school or the working world. Working in manufacturing is interesting and dynamic. Every problem and day is different, and you have to be on your toes. I want a career in process engineering that is very fast-paced and involves problem solving.