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Difference Maker: Elizabeth Ervin
Engineering Professor and Researcher, The University of Mississippi
What do you do?
In a nutshell, I break things! I teach general and civil engineering at the college level and perform research in shock and vibration (Shake ‘N Break). I give speeches, seminars, and lectures. I also work in a laboratory and perform computer simulations.
Sometimes it is difficult trying to inspire students. I left my previous job designing nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers so that I could educate the upcoming engineers. It is sometimes difficult to find students that strive to do their best, but it is the most rewarding when I can inspire a student to enter the correct job for himself/herself.
An important part of my career has been working in teams. As you can imagine, a submarine or aircraft carrier is extremely complicated. There are differently-qualified teams to tackle every aspect of the ship. For example, there are nuclear physicists to examine the motor systems, mechanical engineers for the power systems, and electrical engineers for the control systems. Every technical issue in the entire world is addressed by a team of experts with varied backgrounds to be sure that all bases are covered.
How does math and science help you change the world?
The world can’t function without math, and we can’t understand the world without science! Without science, and engineers, there would be no cars, buildings, TVs, cell phones, or even drinking water. I am working towards better educating underrepresented groups, including women, through several programs. I am also researching structural impact to help buildings better resist earthquakes and blasts.
What inspired you to make math and science part of your life?
I didn’t know I wanted to be a scientist for a long time. I discovered that I liked math and science, so I wanted to find a career in which to use it. At first, I wanted to be a paleontologist, but now dinosaurs are a hobby. Also, I am a first generation college student and now the first doctor in the family. Since he passed when I was nearly 8, my grandfather has been my inspiration. He was so proud when I used to read the newspaper to him. Currently, my father guides me. “Everything you will get in life, you must earn through an education.”
How can we learn more about what you do?
You can learn more about civil engineering by going to the American Society of Civil Engineers. They have all kinds of neat information about the research being conducted around the country. They even have a kids section where you can learn about the history of civil engineering, enter contests, and discover how civil engineering touches your daily life!
What do you do for fun?
I have far too many hobbies that I have taught myself. I build dollhouses, garden, do carpentry, sew, cook, and make jewelry, to name a few. Being an engineer helps with all of these activities.
What would you say to a BrainCakegirl about math and science?
Make decisions that you will not regret. This will help you build your future into what you desire. The things that make a good scientist are discipline and diligence. Science is not always easy, but it is certainly worth the effort.