As a child growing up in Poland, Miguel, who is associate professor and chair of electrical and computer engineering in the College of Science and Engineering, had a proclivity toward mathematics, so much so that it was her intended focus when it came time to pursue her higher education aspirations. Once at college, Miguel says she realized that math “was not practical enough.”
“I loved solving problems but wanted these problems to have real life application,” she says. “I looked around and selected electrical and computer engineering, which tends to be the most mathematically oriented engineering major.”
Following graduation with a PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Washington, Miguel worked as a consultant. It wasn’t long before she realized this wasn’t the type of work she wanted to do as academia was calling her. One day she was asked to fill in for a faculty member at the UW and teach a class. She was hooked and a teaching career was launched.
“I fell in love with teaching and decided to look for an academic position that was more teaching oriented,” she explains.
After teaching a couple of years at the UW Miguel got an opportunity to interview at SU and in 2004 joined the faculty at the College of Science and Engineering.
“The reason I applied to SU was because I was looking for a position that would combine teaching, research and service in a more balanced way than at a Research I type of an institution,” says Miguel. “I think that this balance is what I enjoy most about SU.”
As chair of the department Miguel set goals such as increasing enrollment—“we have many more majors then when I started in the department”—and working with faculty and staff to enable students to reach their potential and prepare for careers after graduation.
Says Miguel, “It is a great feeling to walk through the hallway and see our labs full of students engaged in their work.”
Currently Miguel is the principal investigator on a grant from the National Science Foundation. The grant, “Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (S-STEM)” is for $611,412 and provides scholarships for academically gifted and financial needy junior-year students who transfer to the department from two- and four-year colleges. The five-year grant will award up to $10,000 per year for at least 28 students during the two years needed to complete a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering.
Electrical engineering and computer engineering are important pieces of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, which the college is known for.
The teachings and characteristics of STEM infiltrate everyday life and experiences in ways that are apparent and not so much, says Miguel.
“Starting with the natural world we live in (science); computers and phones we all use (technology); the infrastructure such as the roads we drive on, the buildings we live in and the power we consume (engineering); and, of course, the mathematics which is the basis for it all,” she explains. “Our life is immersed in STEM.”
And there is a pressing need for more STEM graduates to fill sizable gaps in the job market in our state, she says.
“Demand exceeds the state production of engineering degrees at a two-to-one ratio and that gaps is expected to widen as the industry’s aging workforce retires.”
In addition to being the “STEM College,” Science and Engineering is distinctive because of the quality of faculty and staff and the passion they share for education.
“Everybody is very committed to students’ success. The amount of research in the college that is done with the involvement of undergraduates is very impressive,” says Miguel. “Faculty members understand that research informs teaching and they are committed to include it in their everyday lessons.”
Currently Miguel is the principal investigator on a grant from the National Science Foundation. The grant, “Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (S-STEM)” is for $611,412 and provides scholarships for academically gifted and financial needy junior-year students who transfer to the department from two- and four-year colleges.