Bios – Meet the experts, engineering for non-engineers


  • (Currently) Doctoral Candidate in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech, expected graduation of May 2021
  • (March 2021) Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Adjunct Assistant Professor for the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University

I had an atypical exposure to engineering. Unlike several people who attended STEM-based summer camps or participated in robotics clubs to gain interest in STEM, I had a very different experience. Growing up, I attended vacation bible schools and gymnastic camps during the summer. While I enjoyed math and science, I had career aspirations to be a pastry chef. As I got older, my mother had a direct conversation with me and stated how I needed to find a new career aspiration and to do something more than follow a recipe all day. I needed to find something that would push me and allow me to enjoy baking on the side. 

I did not even know about the field of engineering until the summer before my senior year of high school. That summer, I helped my uncle, a handy man at the time, build a deck, re-roof a house, and add an addition to a house. One day I asked him, what is this and he replied engineering and it was at this point that I decided to look more into the field of engineering. At the time, I thought I wanted to be a biomedical engineer. My inspiration came from weekly trips to the Commissary on the military base and seeing the distraught faces of several amputee military veterans. I thought I could make better prosthetics than those currently available. Flash forward a decade, I am a doctoral candidate in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech and my inspiration has completely changed. 

Now, my primary inspiration is the students whom I regularly interact with whether at my institution or an outreach event. Students are my inspiration because I thoroughly enjoy seeing their faces light up when I can explain to them that being an engineer is an achievable feat. We all come from different backgrounds and experiences but there is a place for you in engineering. You don’t have to be the valedictorian to have an interest in engineering, you can be an engineer without ever realizing you are doing engineering-related concepts. In addition to exposing students to engineering, I have a passion to help create an inclusive and welcoming space for students to learn and become engineers. 

I’m interested in engineering because it allows me to consistently ask questions. In engineering, I can ask questions and hopefully find the answers to have a long-lasting impact for those generations after me. I think my background as a Black woman in engineering allows me to bring my experiences and those around me to the forefront when we are thinking of solving issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Although I’m not a typical engineer by any means, I think engineering needs more people who are willing to push the boundaries of what engineering is.

Connect with Karis:


  • (Current) – Staff Engineer, ENGEO Incorporated;
  • (Starting August 2021) – Assistant Professor, University of Southern California [USC] Viterbi School of Engineering, Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

I love to create, understand, and evaluate. These three things are satisfied via engineering. In particular Civil Engineering deals with the development of infrastructure that improves the lifestyle and livelihood of the global population, and more importantly protect against the natural hazards (predators, disease, weather, etc.). This requires problem solving, creativity, and perseverance. 

My father was also a civil engineer so he introduced me to the field and intentionally (or unintentionally) inspired me to pursue it as a career and passion as well.

Connect with Dr. Nweke:


Assistant Professor – Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Director and Founder -Engineering, Arts & Sports Engagement (EASE)

“I use my experiences in STEM, the arts, and sports to bring students the resources they need for their unique purpose and path.

By day, I teach engineering classes, conduct educational research, and volunteer in the community as a college professor.

I am from Dayton, OH – the birthplace of aviation, the cash register, Funk and the NFL’s first game. I am a proud graduate of Dayton Public Schools and Wright STEPP – Wright State University’s Science, Technology, and Engineering Preparatory Program.”

Connect with Dr. Long:


Photo courtesy of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology/Bryan Cantwell.

Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

“Since I am an engineer first who was later inspired by robotics, my love for it was because it is so multidisciplinary in nature. On a robot I can do electronics, sensors, kinematics, coding, math, physics. It is exciting to see code that you wrote cause a robot to exhibit behaviours like, homing, wall following, line following, searching. Robotics is also a great way to get people into STEM by using the back door approach of allowing them to “play” with the robot. For kids, this could mean making the robot dance or follow you with a sensor or sing a song with a buzzer.

Engineering is about innovation which is creativity in context. So if you are constantly engaging in creative activites to solve problems and make the world a better place then it seems like a STEM career is ideal for you. If you started with Legos, Tinker Toys or any other creative toy then that is a wonderful transition to coding and engineering.”

Connect with Dr. Berry: