Women’s History Month: Get to know 3 women in engineering

Since its establishment in the 1980s, Women’s History Month has taken place each March to encourage the study, observance and celebration of women’s vital impacts on American history. 

Such impacts are evident throughout Case Western Reserve’s past and present, from the university’s origins as the Flora Stone Mather College for Women, to the efforts of today’s Flora Stone Mather Center for Women and student groups such as those in the Women’s Coalition.   

All can celebrate this month with resources and events from Kelvin Smith Library, and stay tuned to The Daily each Wednesday to get to know some of the many women from across fields who help CWRU excel. 

Janet Gbur 

Photo of Janet Gbur

Research assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering

At Case School of Engineering, Janet Gbur works at the intersection of materials engineering, mechanical engineering, and medical devices. Specifically, she looks at the reliability of materials used for biomedical applications and works with groups developing technologies for veteran rehabilitation at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center’s Advanced Platform Technology Center. 

A love of art and science initially led her to engineering, and, though she didn’t benefit from women mentors in the field until late in her college career, she believes all paths women take to STEM offer others guidance. 

“Understanding how women in STEM charted their paths provides insight on the landscape they had to navigate to become successful leaders,” Gbur explained. “It’s important to recognize their efforts and also learn from them so that we can continue moving the needle forward, advancing our next generation of women in STEM leaders.”

Learn more about Gbur in this Q&A article.

Leah Roldan

Photo of Leah Roldan

Graduate student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering

When Leah Roldan was in high school, she knew she enjoyed physics, math, and biology—but it was the guidance of a teacher that helped her see engineering as the perfect field to pursue. Now, she’s focused on developing technologies that can help improve people’s quality of life, all the while gaining confidence in herself across academic and industry settings. 

She had trouble finding mentors in her field until after earning her master’s degree, but believes hearing from women who have charted career paths in STEM is a valuable learning opportunity.

“Don’t let anyone tell you what you’re interested in and trust your gut if you enjoy STEM,” Roldan said, when asked what advice she has for young women considering their next steps. “If you haven’t had a lot of exposure to engineering so far, there’s still plenty of time to learn and decide, and you are very capable of learning.”  

Learn more about Roldan in this Q&A article.

Kathy Harper 

Photo of Kathy Harper

Associate professor and assistant director of the Roger E. Susi First-year Engineering Experience

Across her roles at Case Western Reserve University, Kathy Harper focuses on STEM education research, typically in physics and engineering. Most of her research work recently has focused on implementing research-based curricular innovations and assessing their impact. 

While the students she teaches today carry countless reasons for exploring STEM, Harper points to a deep interest in electricity and magnetism for setting her on her career path. Like Gbur and Roldan, Harper didn’t encounter many women mentors until late in her academic training, but her women colleagues today and peers along the way have offered invaluable support.

“The women who have most influenced and supported me are my peers, starting with those in my graduate program as we worked together, to learn the material in our fundamental courses, to grow into independent researchers, and to simultaneously navigate the transition to adulthood,” Harper explained.

Learn more about Harper in this Q&A article.