Success Times Two

Van LueOnly one in 10 engineers working in the United States is a woman. Two recent Saint Mary’s graduates, Staci Van Lue and Nicole Marie Gifford Lowe, have become the change they’d like to see in that statistic.

In 2006, Van Lue and Lowe earned B.S. degrees in chemistry from Saint Mary’s. A year later, through the College’s dual degree program in engineering, they completed B.S.E. degrees across the street at the University of Notre Dame. Some might call that double trouble, but grads say the program gives them the best of both worlds. At Saint Mary's, Van Lue and Lowe benefited from small classes and personal attention from faculty. At Notre Dame, they had access to cutting-edge laboratories, equipment, and engineering research facilities.

Van Lue just started a Ph.D. program at Duke University with a prestigious fellowship. “I would say that the route I took to graduate school gave me definite advantages over other candidates, who were coming from just a chemistry or engineering background. My two degrees gave me a breadth of knowledge and a completely different way of looking at problems,” she says.

LoweResearch opportunities provided another advantage. As an undergrad, Van Lue held an internship at Dow AgroSciences, worked for two summers in a chemistry research lab at Notre Dame, and co-authored a paper with her advisor. “It was a good experience and helped me decide where I wanted to be. The people who I thought were interesting and who had the authority to do the research they wanted in the lab all had Ph.D.s.” For Van Lue, getting her doctorate was the next step.

Lowe also did research at Notre Dame and through Saint Mary’s, won a Lilly grant for an internship at a local company. Eager to put her education to practical use, in July she accepted a position as a process engineer at Morton Salt. “When you work in industry, you don’t have to stay in confined quarters,” says Lowe, “and I like dealing with people and real-life problems and situations.”

Lowe is the only female engineer at Morton Salt’s plant in Manistee, Mich. While she’s chosen a male-dominated field, she says, “I love what I’m doing and there’s a lot of room for upward movement in the company. Generally, there are a lot of opportunities for women in engineering—especially with the versatility that comes from having both chemistry and engineering degrees.”