Alumna Spotlight: Megan Nyre-Yu

Women in Engineering Program highlights triple Purdue IE, Megan Nyre-Yu (B.S. IE '09, M.S. IE '16, PhD IE '19).

How did you decide to extend your education to include a graduate degree?

I graduated with my BSIE in 2009 and immediately joined industry. I worked at two different companies over 5 years. It was during this time I discovered I had a passion for identifying and resolving technology-related issues as they related to human users. I saw a lot of examples of how engineers and managers designed, purchased, or deployed technology that ultimately had issues with use and adoption. These problems often manifested as issues with safety, quality, and performance. The common cause was a lack of understanding of the human who needed to use the technology. I considered certificate programs and part-time graduate programs but ultimately decided to leave industry to pursue a research-based Master's degree. My passion for Human Factors quickly ignited, and I decided to also do a Ph.D. in the same area.

Why did you choose to attend Purdue for graduate school?

Though I attended Purdue as an undergrad, the decisions that dictate where you go to grad school are a bit different. I would say that it was a coincidence that my degrees are all from the same university, especially as my goals and career aspirations were very different when I was completing my Bachelor's. I went to Purdue as an undergrad, but at the time had little awareness of Human Factors research and its impact within my own school (IE). Serendipity led me to reconnect with a former professor. I knew after speaking to him about what I wanted to learn and accomplish and that I needed to seriously consider Purdue IE for my graduate studies. This professor became my advisor.

What has your Purdue engineering graduate degree meant to you, and what has it allowed you to do in your career?

When I identify myself as a Purdue Engineer, it usually elicits immediate respect. The Purdue brand is globally-recognized. You are likely to meet fellow Boilermakers (or family members of) pretty much anywhere you go. I love the camaraderie that I experience when this happens.

My broad range of experiences in my undergraduate and graduate degrees has allowed me to appreciate and respect a wider set of problems and utilize a diverse set of approaches. Currently, I work at Sandia National Laboratories, the largest of the Department of Energy laboratories. There I conduct research in my field across a wide range of application spaces, which allows me to work with experts from different fields to solve national security problems. I get plenty of exposure to other disciplines and fields while using the skills I gained from my past experiences and Purdue degrees.

I was more active in WIEP during my time as a graduate student. As an undergraduate student, I made friends across the university through coursework, living in the dorms, and a vibrant social life. Graduate school was different. There were fewer overall students in my program and fewer women by percentage in IE. I was more focused on specific areas of learning and research. I discovered that I wasn't interested in the same activities. I needed to be around people in the same stage of life. I found myself caring about different problems, balancing different aspects of life, and wanting different types of relationships. I found solace in the WIEP graduate student activities. There I connected with other women in various stages of their graduate studies. They were experiencing the same struggles and changes I was.

The Women in Engineering Program events were always organized, thoughtful, and targeted. I loved the monthly gatherings with other female students in engineering! I made new friends and connections and felt at home. I enjoyed personal interactions with successful alumni who shared their stories. It affirmed my decision to go to graduate school. I could see the path to success!

I appreciated the fact that WIEP had constant support and leadership, making it feel more stable and less transient than other organizations. The program seemed to evolve every semester along with the student body.

What advice do you have for young women who are studying engineering?

Follow your passion, and if you don't know what it is yet, that is okay! I didn't discover mine until several years after I graduated with my first degree. The point is to do what *you* want to do. Do what makes you happy. Being true to yourself is sure to lead you to being successful without sacrificing your joy.

The world needs you. It needs that brilliant, unique woman just the way she is. While it is not always easy professionally or personally to pursue a career in engineering, women around the world are slowly but surely moving the needle. Know that you are never alone. Your persistence and bravery will be rewarded with significant change for others.

Never forget your roots or your journey. Someday, when you are leading the career you have always wanted, don't forget to look back at your time at Purdue. Look at the young woman you were then and appreciate the transformation. Remember that other young women are experiencing that. They need your stories and experiences to help them through their own journeys. Whether they are at Purdue, your company, or even just in your professional network, be generous with your time and words. Pay it forward!

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