Honoring Women in STEM: Karen A. Thole

Department Head and Distinguished Professor, Mechanical Engineering

What is your area of expertise and what is your research focus?

Sustainable Aviation  /  Heat Transfer  / Fluid Mechanics

How did you end up in STEM?

A friend recommended I consider engineering

What hurdles or challenges (big or small) did you find as you pursued your career in STEM?

Few women role models and having to prove myself worthy of being in the room

What challenges do you face today?

Not feeling appreciated for my efforts nor for my accomplishments

What or who was an inspiration or support for you?

My outside collaborators and research sponsors; my students; and my close research colleagues

Why is it important for women to be in STEM and specifically your field?

They bring valuable technical leadership and ideas to the table as well as being integral to building team dynamics

What can be done to recruit more women into STEM?

Be supportive of one another rather than compete with one another;  let’s make it easier rather than more difficult for other women colleagues

What advice would you give to girls and young women going into STEM?

Be confident—we belong at the table

Is there anything else you would like to add on the subject of women in STEM?

There are so many exciting opportunities—take some and don’t be afraid to take risks.