Kaitlyn Reed Bunker has recently earned her PhD in Electrical Engineering and now works at Rocky Mountain Institute. I recently had the opportunity to talk with her and learn all about her background in STEM. Here is our conversation:
Hillary: Why did you decide to study engineering?
Kaitlyn: I was inspired to study engineering by my father, who is a mechanical engineer. I wanted to be creative and design new things, while also improving the lives of other people, and knew I could do both of these things with a career in engineering.
Hillary: Did you enjoy science as a little girl?
Kaitlyn: I loved science when I was growing up – along with great examples from my engineer dad, I was also inspired by my mother, who is a biochemist. I was always interested in figuring out how things work, and especially loved building things with Legos!
Hillary: What was the coolest STEM-related thing you got to do while pursuing your degrees?
Kaitlyn: In 2012, I had the opportunity to attend the Women Engineers Leading Global Innovation Symposium, hosted by the Society of Women Engineers in Bangalore, India. I presented a poster on my research (which was related to connecting renewable resources, like wind, with microgrids), and heard from many interesting speakers about their work. It was amazing to see how similar the issues faced by women in STEM are in India and the U.S.
Hillary: What do you think is most exciting about your current job?
Kaitlyn: I currently work at Rocky Mountain Institute, which is a non-profit with the mission of driving the efficient and restorative use of resources. The most exciting part is that I get to use my technical and problem-solving skills that I learned while working on my engineering degrees, but also work as part of a diverse team with people that have very different backgrounds from my own. I love being able to see the impacts of our work in improving the lives of other people.
Hillary: Are there any challenges you have faced as a woman in STEM?
Kaitlyn: At times, I would notice as I looked around the room during class or during a meeting, that I was one of few women, and sometimes the only woman. However, I’ve always felt like I belong in my field, and felt that my opinions and my work are valued.
Hillary: Have you participated in any events/programs/etc. that have allowed you to encourage girls in science?
Kaitlyn: I have been involved throughout college, and now as a professional, with the Society of Women Engineers. SWE has provided many opportunities to meet and interact with other women engineers, who have served as excellent role models and mentors for me. I’ve also been able to learn and practice leadership skills in SWE, which I can then utilize in my job. One of SWE’s strategic goals is Advocacy, which includes outreach programs to encourage girls in science and engineering. I’ve been able to participate in several events with my local SWE section, where we visit elementary schools or invite students to an event that we plan, and do hands-on activities to share our love of STEM with them.
Hillary: What is your biggest career goal?
Kaitlyn: My biggest career goal is to continuously increase the impact that I am able to have in improving the lives of other people. I’ve only been working for a few months after completing my PhD in electrical engineering, but I can already see the impact that my initial projects have. As I continue my career, I will continue to increase my influence and impact on projects that will lead to transforming how we generate and use electricity.
Kaitlyn also shared her favorite STEM activity to do with kids! She has made “egg helmets” with girls at Girl Scout science events to teach girls the importance of wearing helmets during activities such as bicycling or roller blading. If you would like to try the activity yourself, instructions can be found here.
Thank you, Kaitlyn, for being an awesome STEM Girl and for sharing your story with Girl Museum!
Girl Museum Inc.