Live Event: April 19, 2018 at 1:00pm Eastern (US)
Michelle Dickinson is a nanotechnologist and Chief Technology Officer at Nanogirl Labs where she helps companies build better and smaller electronic devices. She is also an author, speaker, and host of the NanoGirl Live Science show. We asked her a few questions about herself and her STEM career to get to know her and her work a bit better before her live event.
Name: Dr Michelle Dickinson
Layman’s Title: Maker and breaker of tiny things
Company: Nanogirl Labs
Years in this organization/position? 3
What does your organization do?
We help companies to build better and smaller electronic devices such as smartphones and pacemakers by making the technology smaller.
What is your role in the organization?
Chief Technology Officer (CTO)
What type of science, technology, engineering or math do you use in your career? And how often do you use them?
I use all of the above every day. Because different people come to me with their engineering problems, one day I might be working on a medical device that requires biology knowledge and another day I might be working on pieces of aircraft technology.
How is the work you do important to society?
We help to make better gadgets and medical devices to help people to communicate and live longer lives.
What accomplishments are you most proud of in your current role?
We do a lot of outreach where we teach students about nanotechnology and give them experiments to do. When a student comes to me later to say that they are now studying science thanks to the workshops they did with us, I feel really proud that we are helping to inspire the next generation.
What projects or goals are you currently pursuing?
We are working on creating superhydrophobic and icephobic materials which are materials that repel water and ice using nanosized textures on the surface of a material.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?
The technology is always changing, so I have to read a lot and teach myself new skills in my spare time to keep up to date.
What is the most exciting, most amazing, or scariest thing that has happened to you during your work?
I’ve been lucky enough to work with Sir Richard Branson and Neil De Grasse Tyson who are both heroes of mine which was super exciting!
Highest degree attained/ Schools attended?
PhD Biomedical Materials Engineering, Rutgers University.
Masters Biomedical Materials Engineering, Manchester University UK
What kinds of challenges did you overcome during your education?
Being one of only a handful of girls in my class at university was tough, as I found it hard to fit in.
Previous employers and positions that have lead to your current role:
I worked for BASF making the superabsorbent polymers that you find in baby diapers which made me want to be a nanotechnologist.
Other positions not necessarily related to your current career:
I used to teach piano and ran my own music school
Worst job you’ve ever had and why:
Worst – washing dishes in a restaurant.
What were you like as a kid?
Quiet and shy but very curious about the world and always pulling things apart to see how they worked.
Favorite classes/coursework in elementary school, middle school, high school, college:
Woodwork and metalwork – I loved hands on subjects.
What were your favorite books/shows/movies when you were a kid?
I loved the book Matilda and really wanted to be her.
What did you think you were going to be when you grew up at age 12? At age 15? At age 18?
At 12 I had no idea, at 15 I thought I wanted to be a doctor as I was good at science, at 18 I knew I wanted to be in a job that built things.
When did you know you wanted to pursue your current career, and what drove you towards it?
I’ve never known, I just know what I’m good at which is being curious and solving problems. I seek careers that allow me to keep doing that.
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, what other career(s) might you have pursued?
I’d probably have been an Olympic swimmer.
What are your favorite hobbies or activities you do for fun?
Kitesurfing and running with my dog.
Do you play any musical instruments or play any sports?
Piano, surfing, mountain biking.
What is your favorite non-science book, magazine, or blog?
Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell
What’s the most frequently played song on your playlist?
Honey Bee by Zee Avi
What advice would you give a student interested in pursuing your career?
Do it! It’s so interesting and every day is different and you can help to solve big problems in the world. Just remember to study hard to get here.
What advice would you give students in general?
Find the thing that you love, it’s likely to be the thing that you are good at and follow that.
What are some interesting places you’ve traveled?
All over the world! India, China, Japan and my favorites.
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