5 questions with… Case Engineers Council President Abigail Advincula

Abigail AdvinculaAs a sophomore, Abigail Advincula tagged along with some friends to the Engineers Week Banquet—the culminating celebration of Engineers Week, hosted by the Case Engineers Council.

After that first event, Advincula was hooked.

Now a polymer science and engineering senior, Advincula is president of the Case Engineers Council, and she’s leading the effort to organize Engineers Week, which began Feb. 13 and will continue through Feb. 26. Learn more about Engineers Week.

“E-Week happens right around the time when school is hard and a lot of us are stressed out from school and homework,” Advincula said. “It’s fun for students because it helps us remember why a lot of us became engineers in the first place.”

For Advincula, that reason was finding challenging work that also would have real-world impact.

She does just that in the lab with Jon Pokorski, assistant professor of macromolecular science and engineering.

Since August 2014, she’s been developing tissue-engineered scaffolds, which are platforms that cells can grow on to heal when tissues have become diseased or damaged. The scaffolds make it possible to help the body to heal itself.

Even though she works on very complex topics in the lab, she goes back to the basics as a teaching assistant for lower-level materials science engineering courses. A passionate instructor, Advincula always tries to make creative analogies to help students better understand the subject matter and keep first-year students interested in what they’re learning.

And someday, Advincula hopes to return to academia to become a professor and share her love for engineering with a new generation.

In advance of Engineers Week, we sat down with Advincula to learn more about the brains behind the operation.

1. What is your proudest accomplishment?

Getting the chance to foster the development of new engineering students. I’ve gotten to do this through serving as a TA for various polymer [science] and engineering classes, but especially through my time serving as an officer of the Case Engineers Council. I’ve tried to teach my officers that true leadership in an organization lies in those most capable to help, and I hope I’ve taught them that leadership is a very giving capacity.

2. If you could do anything you wanted for a day, what would you do?

I would go to a TED conference. Some people look down on the oversimplification of TED Talks sometimes, but I think the ability to describe a complex concept succinctly and in an interesting manner is a rare skill. TED conferences are filled with a lot idealists and dreamers, and I would imagine it would be an inspiring group of people. I’m of the persuasion that if I can’t explain something simply, I don’t know it well enough, so I admire the people at these conferences for the amount of thought they’ve put into making these talks. Communication of ideas is superbly important.

3. Who would you want to play you in a movie of your life?

My brother or Carey Mulligan. My brother playing me is kind of a joke. I would “pick” him because he’s one of my best friends and knows my mannerisms really well. If I actually had to pick a girl, it would be Carey Mulligan. She was in my favorite episode of Doctor Who. I’ve liked most of the heroines she’s played (except for Daisy in The Great Gatsby), and I think she would give me a sassy portrayal. I could get behind that.

4. If you could go back in time to tell your childhood self something, what would you say?

Don’t be jealous of other people. What everyone else is doing has nothing to do with you. Just focus on doing your personal best, and be satisfied with that.

5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?

My professors. They’ve fostered a lot of personal growth in my life. They’ve helped me be a better observer, scientist and thinker, and I appreciate getting the chance to be mentored by all these brilliant people. It’s kind of hard to put into words how much it means to me.