Katherine's Open Road

  • INTERVIEWED BY:

    Women In STEM

  • INTERVIEW LOCATION:

    New York, NY

KATHERINE KUCHENBECKER

Associate Professor - Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, Computer and Information Science
University of Pennsylvania

“We're not going to grow if we don't challenge ourselves. Your brain is a muscle, and your skills improve over time through effort, by working hard and expending effort.”

INTERESTS:

Education Engineering

THEMES DISCUSSED:

Exploration Societal Pressures Hard Work Education Experience Doubt Chance Fulfillment

FOUNDATION:

Teaching / Mentoring

TAGS:

classes, computers, engineering, expectations, exploration, fear, interests, learn, learning, physics, pressure, professor, programming, questioning, research, robotics, societal norms, teaching, technology, virtual reality

BIOGRAPHY:

  • In high school, she felt pulled in several different directions: she loved sports, art, design, math, and science.
  • To try to cover as many of her interests as possible—especially in math and design—she decided to major in engineering.
  • After college, she thought she wanted to go into product design, and she was lucky enough to get a few internships in the field.
  • However, once she was working in product design, she realized she didn’t like it, and that terrified her; for a moment, she thought she’d taken the wrong path.
  • Instead of panicking, she decided to follow the threads of the things she liked back to the beginning and start down a new path; she decided to go back to graduate school.
  • She went back to Stanford University for a master’s degree in mechanical engineering; while there, she realized she loved teaching.
  • She continued on to get her Ph.D. so that she could become a professor; she now teaches engineering and computer science at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Known as the “Queen of Haptics,” she studies and teaches the science of touch; in 2010, Popular Science named her one of its 10 most innovative minds in science and engineering.

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