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Female Ph.D. Students at FAMU are Engineering Their Way to Success
Female students in the Florida A&M University – Florida State University College of Engineering are earning their Ph.D.’s in a field often dominated by their male counterparts.

April 26, 2013

– Female students in the Florida A&M University (FAMU) – Florida State University (FSU) College of Engineering are making moves in a field often dominated by their male counterparts. There are currently six women earning their Ph.D.’s through the College’s Title III Program.

All of the candidates anticipate completing the Ph.D. program within the next two years.

“If this country wants to remain competitive, then we must continue to train our students to be competitive,” said Rogers, executive assistant to the president for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The women are Shannon Anderson, a biomedical engineering student; Tarra M. Beach, an environmental engineering student; Marcella Carnes, a civil engineer student; Renee Gordon, a mechanical engineering student; Michelle V. Adejumo, a civil engineering student; and Valesha A. Scott, a mechanical engineering student.
“It’s really great because in my field, I’m often the only girl,” said Gordon, a Miami native. “It is a good surprise to see people like me doing what I do. We have that common bond.”

Anderson agreed.
“We are as minority as minority gets,” she said. “Not many people strive for this. But once you do, the outcome can be great.”

According to research conducted by the University of Iowa, in the last 15 years, concerted efforts by institutions have endeavored to increase diversity in STEM fields, resulting in increased graduate degree enrollments, especially for underrepresented minority groups in STEM fields. Between 1993 and 2006, African-American STEM doctoral enrollments almost doubled. Despite this overall impressive trend, doctoral degree statistics indicate that the proportion of minority students receiving doctoral degrees in STEM fields have remained consistently lower. In 2007, out of 21,000 recipients, African Americans constituted five percent.

“As African-American women, we have to work together to contribute to this ever growing field,” Beach said.

Gordon’s research, Low-Pack Cyaniding Method Using Biomass to Case-Harden Mild Steel: Cassava Leaf Study, is to design and build a novel scalable Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) that can replace traditional actuators in some robotic devices and that has higher performance than current CVT designs. A CVT consists of a sphere supported in rolling contact with two types of rollers: drive rollers which are coupled to the angular velocities to be controlled (i.e. the joints of a robot) and steering rollers which determine the ratio of the drive roller angular velocities. To improve CVT design the research addresses three prime CVT design characteristics: roller material and hardness, roller shape and drive roller coupling.

Gordon, along with one of her colleagues, recently returned from Indianapolis, Ind., where Gordon had the opportunity to present her research poster to individuals in the fields of business and finance.

“It was beneficial to share my research with a different demographic and to get their feedback,” she said.

Carnes’ research, Progressive Failure Mitigation, investigates methods for the determination of mitigation for progressive failure of a light-frame steel structure.

“Progressive failure can be defined as local failure advancing toward other components within the structure, which, in turn, becomes global failure,” she said. “It results from abnormal loading, such as blast or impact due to natural, accidental or deliberate event, or human error in design and construction. The relationship between local failure and global failure in a steel structure is linked by key elements within the structure. These key elements are said to be elements that are local, sole contributors to progressive failure in the failure of the structure.”

Other research projects include: Barriers Impacting the Planning of Transit Oriented Developments by Adejumo, Civil Engineering Aspects of Phytoremediation: Development of A Novel Design Protocol of Evapotranspiration Landfill Covers using a Modeling Methodology and Long-Term Monitoring Data by Beach, Influence of Palladium in Bimetallic Catalyst Deactivation Resistance for Hydrodechlorination by Andreson, and Influence of Palladium in Bimetallic Catalyst Deactivation Resistance for Hydrodechlorination by Scott.

“We keep moving forward so the pipeline doesn't get clogged,” Scott said. “We are etching our names within the world of science, technology engineering and math.”

Professor Peter N. Kalu serves as an adviser for two of the students. He said he recruited the women into the program because of their talent and love for engineering.

“I am very proud of the work that the students have done,” said Kalu, a Distinguished Professor and Fulbright Scholar. “Their projects are ongoing and their work is steadily evolving. We have been able to graduate students who can compete internationally. As advisers, we have to be in the trenches with our students.”

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