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Perseverance is more important than brilliance: Dr. Sherry Yennello from the Cyclotron Institute

Perseverance is more important than brilliance: Dr. Sherry Yennello from the Cyclotron Institute

Not that long ago, the only women’s restroom at Texas A&M’s Cyclotron Institute was in the administrative area, far from where the science was done. “There are more women now,” said Dr. Sherry Yennello, Chemistry Professor and Cyclotron Institute Bright Chair in Nuclear Science at Texas A&M University. “And I think more women have the mindset that they can be scientists. They know it’s possible.”

Dr. Sherry Yennello

Dr. Yennello spoke recently to a group of UD students following her lecture, “Stellar Secrets: Earth Bound Insights into Elements Through Heavy-ion Reactions.” Her visit was part of the Clare Booth Luce Speaker Series, a program designed to attract women into physical science, engineering, and mathematical areas and to support them once there.

Dr. Yennello told students that research experiences are invaluable on a number of levels. “You’ll learn what it’s like to really do research every day,” she said. “And you’ll learn how you function best, whether in a structured environment where a professor gives you explicit instructions, or in an environment like mine, where I give you the big picture, show you the resources, and you have to step up and ask questions.”

Dr. Yennello encouraged students to attend regional and national meetings of groups associated with their majors (like American Chemical Society and American Physical Society) in order to network with their peers. “Students that attend these meetings will tell you what their lives are really like at their REUs and give you a good feel for the way an institution or a department works.” She added that networking at these events creates relationships that can form the basis of not only lifelong scientific collaborations, but also true friendships. “Science is done in groups,” she said. “And you need networks of people to get it done.”

In describing which characteristics students need to be successful, Dr. Yennello emphasized perseverance above any other trait. “Not giving up far outweighs brilliance,” she said. According to Dr. Yennello, high achieving students often get frustrated when their experiments don’t go the way they think they will. “When I’m looking at potential students for REUs, I’m looking for someone who wants to learn, someone who wants to figure out how to overcome errors and mistakes and understands that there isn’t always a straight path to the answer,” she said. Dr. Yennello recommended that students use the personal statements and cover letters with their REU applications to talk about their resilience, curiosity and perseverance when they don’t get an answer on the first try.

Dr. Yennello closed by saying that conducting research is only part of the benefit of an REU: “The real questions are: did you learn something and did you meet people?”

For more information on applying for REUs or other internships, contact OPCD or your department chair.

Alumni Answers: Should I get an engineering license?

Alumni Answers: Should I get an engineering license?

Dear Michael,

Did you obtain engineering license, and if so, did you find it necessary? Did you join any engineering clubs? (Maurice)

Michael H. (BS Physics, 2015), Research Engineer at Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Laboratories

The specific field of engineering you decide to pursue will play a significant role in determining whether professional licensure is necessary or even useful. I will admit up front that I am a fairly green professional, and that any more senior advisory panel member who says differently from me should probably be given more credence; but as I understand it, an engineering license is only required if you wish to be the “final authority” to sign and certify the design and plans for any project funded for the use of the public – buildings and bridges, for instance. For this reason, civil engineers are usually the ones who find it useful to hold an engineering license. (You can still work as a civil engineer without holding an engineering license, you just can’t be the final authority to sign off on any plans that fall into the “for public use/benefit” category. I do not completely understand the delineation for “public use,” but it is not just as simple as “will a lot of people use it.” I expect that further investigation beyond that which I can provide will be helpful here.)

I am in electrical engineering, and I do not hold a license nor do I anticipate pursuing one. It is true that an EE who works on, say, a city’s power supply grid would likely benefit from having a license, but my work is at the microchip scale and therefore does not fall within that scope.
So, the simplified answer is: if you are not a civil engineer and do not wish to work on city-scale projects, very likely will not find an engineering license to be useful. If you do become a civil engineer, you *may* need one, and the it would be worthwhile to consult a professional in that engineering sub-field specifically.


Cheers to you, your continuing education, and your success in the field of your chosen profession!
Alumni Answers: Transition From Physics to Engineering (Beemnet, Physics 2020)

Alumni Answers: Transition From Physics to Engineering (Beemnet, Physics 2020)

Dear Zofia,

Hello! I was wandering what you think of the transition from pure Physics to Engineering studies. Do you think it is better to seek out for engineering experiences while at UD? Thank you, Beemnet (Physics 2020)


Hello Beemnet,

I absolutely think seeking out engineering while at UD would be great if that’s the direction you want to go. I think networking with engineers (try going to local events, you can find them on LinkedIn) can be very helpful. I also suggest working to learn relevant skills (such as proficiency in a CAD program and using micro-controllers such as Arduino). If you can find an engineering internship you will be really well off.

I chose to go to grad school afterwards because I didn’t know I wanted to do engineering until after UD. However, I was able to get an engineering internship the summer before grad school. I could have just continued to try to find work related to engineering, and might have even been better off that way. In engineering, often having practical experience is more valuable than schooling. Personally, grad school was not as useful to me as I would have hoped.

There are also companies that have programs for people with science backgrounds to transition to engineering. My company, National Instruments, will take physics grads (among other engineering disciplines) and give them the training and work experience to transition to R&D, systems engineering, marketing, and sales. I don’t personally know of other companies that do this, but I’m sure there are similar positions out there. If you are interested in National Instruments, please let me know.

Getting internships while in school would be the best possible thing you could do, though it can be tough to find them. This was something I didn’t do enough, and proved to make my job search much harder.

I hope that helps. Please feel free to ask any follow up questions.

Zofia K. (BS Physics, 2012), ELP Engineer at National Instruments