BS optics '02
(MPhil engineering '03, Cambridge University; SM applied physics '05, Harvard)
Occupation: Upper school science teacher and 12th grade dean, Newton Country Day School of the Sacred Heart
Residence: Arlington, MA
Family: Husband Jason Sickler ('00) and daughter Emilia Sickler
When and how did you choose your major(s)?
As a kid, I loved building things. Math was always my favorite subject in school. I attended some women in engineering and science programs during high school, which piqued my interest. After taking AP Physics during my senior year, I was sold on majoring in engineering. I started my freshman year planning to major in optics. I was interested in the cutting-edge applications and liked that it involved a lot of physics and math.
What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?
Playing on the Women's Varsity soccer team for four years gave me invaluable experience working with others, being committed to working my hardest for my team and teammates, and managing my time wisely. Working as peer tutor on campus helped me realize that I enjoy teaching others. As the president of the UR Tau Beta Pi chapter my senior year, I discovered an interest in organizing and managing events and learned valuable leadership skills.
What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?
I decided to go straight to graduate school for a number of reasons: I love to learn and I enjoyed my engineering classes at UR, I felt that having an advanced degree would provide me with a variety of career opportunities, and I thought that I might want to teach at the college level at some point. I deferred my admission to a PhD program to spend a year pursuing a master's degree in Cambridge, UK after graduation. I began a PhD program when I returned to the US a year later.
What do you do now and why did you choose this career?
After spending 4 years in graduate school, I began to realize that research did not suit my personality. I was interested in the science I was doing, but I was not energized by spending my days in the lab. I was more excited by talking about science and engineering with others. I needed a career that was more people-oriented. I already knew that I loved to teach and so I made the decision to become a high school physics teacher. I have been teaching physics and physical science at an independent, all-girls school for six years now.
What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?
I am so grateful for my engineering education. I learned how to think analytically about complex problems, be persistent, and manage my time effectively. I learned to have confidence in myself to attempt to solve and follow-through with challenging problems. Being a physics teacher, I frequently rely on the basic physics and engineering knowledge I gained through my major.
What advice do you have for current Hajim School students about their time on campus, graduate study, or the first few years after college?
Ask yourself what you enjoy most about engineering. Do you like working in the lab, doing problem sets, writing and giving presentations, explaining concepts to others? Engineering provides such a great foundation for so many different careers. Try to choose a job or graduate program that allows you to do the things you enjoy and is fulfilling on a day-to-day basis. Whatever career path you choose, don't be afraid to reevaluate your situation periodically and recognize that you can always change your path. Your efforts along the way will not be for nothing - the skills you learn will be valuable regardless of what you end up doing.