Meet Wendy Crone: Engineering Professor and Mentor

January 16, 2009

It was an engineering summer camp during high school that really piqued Wendy Crone’s interest in engineering mechanics. Wendy Crone During the camp, one professor held a demonstration lab in which he broke different materials and had the students analyze the fractured surfaces. According to Wendy, “That’s when I got hooked” — and she has been breaking things, figuring out why they break, and trying to make them stronger ever since. Receiving a 1997–98 Selected Professions Fellowship helped greatly in her pursuit. These days Wendy, a doctoral scholar and also an AAUW member at large, relies on AAUW research and publications as she works to help those who are following in her footsteps.

As a woman in engineering, Wendy says that while blatant sexism rarely occurs these days, “unconscious bias and accumulated disadvantage” do still exist. To help combat these issues, Wendy serves as director of the Women Faculty Mentoring Program at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She benefited from the program as a junior faculty member, and now she wants to make sure incoming faculty have the same resources. The program, which aims to support and retain women assistant professors throughout the tenure process, includes formal one-on-one pairings between veteran and incoming faculty, informal peer mentoring groups, a conversation series, and outside speakers.

The peer mentoring groups, such as the Moms’ Groups, have had much success. Divided by discipline, these groups of mothers meet to discuss issues such as traveling with children and strategies for balancing an academic research career with raising a family.wendycrone_balloons

In addition to directing the mentor program, Wendy acts as a mentor in the classroom. She says one of her biggest accomplishments over the past five years is teaching, advising, and watching her students go on to pursue productive careers. “Creating opportunities for students to learn and grow is one part of my job I really enjoy,” said Wendy.

Yet another way in which Wendy works to help those who come after her is her involvement with the university’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC), funded by the National Science Foundation, where she served as director of education for seven years. An internationally known organization, MRSEC aims to increase global understanding of nanotechnology by disseminating educational resources, hosting teacher training workshops, collaborating on worldwide science exhibitions, and creating science curriculum for educators. One recent MRSEC project integrated science and art by displaying images of nanoscale objects, along with explanations of the science, at a local café.wendycrone_nanoquest

In the areas of fundamental and applied research Wendy is also making great strides. Currently, she has patents pending for two aneurism occlusion designs, which aim to more quickly stop the blood flow through an artery leading to the aneurism. She is also studying the mechanical stimulus of biological cells (for example, the way bones become stronger through physical activity) and hopes to research how other cell types are influenced by the mechanical environment they are in.

Wendy’s advice to others is to consider taking academic and career positions in which you will be supported, build lasting networks and mentoring connections, and look for ways to give back by supporting those coming after you.

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