Electrical Engineering — Not Your Average Desk Job

Glenn Roy Nashaknik (Bear Guard), Dr. Cindy Furse (Professor of Electrical Engineering), David Lubbers (Electrical Engineering student)

Ok, so when I decided to be an electrical engineer, I didn’t exactly think, ‘Wow, I think I want to go on a Polar Science Expedition, I guess I’ll be an electrical engineer.’  I confess, ‘Adventure’ and ‘Engineering’ didn’t really link up in my mind. I wanted to make a difference in the world, and make it a better place.  But sometimes, to make that difference, you really do have to go to the ends of the earth.  And that is what we have done.

In November 2010, we went to Antarctica to measure the electrical properties of southern polar sea ice.  Our team consisted of Dr.Ken Golden (Professor of Math), Dr. Joyce Lin (postdoc in Math), Dr. Cindy Furse (Professor of Electrical Engineering) and David Lubbers (undergrad in electrical engineering).  We camped on the ice for nearly 2 1/2 weeks, in a field camp with scientists from New Zealand and Germany.    In May 2011, we went to the Arctic to measure the electrical properties of northern polar sea ice.  We worked with scientists from University of Alaska, Fairbanks.  Here we needed a polar bear guard (I guess a penguin guard was not needed in Antarctica, because penguins don’t eat people.).  What an adventure this year has been!  I’ve always found engineering exciting, fascinating, and never ever boring … but I hadn’t exactly planned on this much adventure. Wow!  Electrical Engineering is definitely NOT your average desk job!

While we were in Barrow, Alaska, we met another really cool (and famous) electrical engineer.  Fran Tate got her degree from the University of Washington in 1960.  She was one of 3 women in the entire college of 1500 men.  She worked in the oil and gas industry, and her company needed engineers in Barrow, Kenya, and Greece.  She chose Barrow, when it was quite a wild and wooley outpost.  She loved it.  When her job finished, and she was offered the chance to go to Anchorage instead, she chose to stay, and dug out her entrepreneurial spirit.  She started Pepe’s Mexican restaurant, which as far as I can tell is about the furthest Mexican restaurant from Mexico that you can find, and she also started a water delivery and sewage pick up system (that’s about as complete a food life cycle as you can come up with).  Just proof, once again, that electrical engineers really do make the world go ’round’.

THREE electrical engineers. David Lubbers (University of Utah 2011), Fran Tate (University of Washington 1960), Cindy Furse (University of Utah 1994). Fran is the proprieter-ess of Pepe's Mexican Restaurant in Barrow, Alaska. She has another friend who was also a (woman) electrical engineer who is now 94.

More about Fran:

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,926589-1,00.html

Interviews with Fran Tate

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