STEM Sister: Kimberly Lam is an Ardent Advocate for Women in Engineering

Kimberly Lam, Newark College of Engineering's Outstanding Senior, on the road with the Society of Women Engineers.

Senior Kimberly Lam is NCE's Outstanding Engineer

Success in a Snapshot: Kimberly Lam* will be honored at the 2016 NCE Salute to Excellence not only as the outstanding senior for the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE), but for the entire Newark College of Engineering.  Her accomplishments are dazzling: a GPA of 4.0, a minor in applied mathematics, internships at three Fortune 500 companies and a stream of accolades for service to the NJIT community that span her college career, including the Albert Dorman Honors College Leadership Award in 2014. To date, Lam has mentored 30 freshmen in her discipline and tutored scores of students in math. Her spirited advocacy on behalf of women in STEM fields, including a two-year stint at the helm of NJIT’s section of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), won her further recognition this year: the 2016 Madame Mau Outstanding Female Engineering Student award.  Lam is a systems engineer with wide interests who likes to “see complex elements in multifaceted systems communicating effectively with one another.” In her senior capstone class, she is designing an offshore wind turbine that also harnesses the ocean’s energy. After graduation, she heads to Lockheed Martin to work on sophisticated weapons systems. As she puts it, “If you want to solve problems in the world, engineering is the way. There is nothing you can’t do.”

Singular Accomplishment: The night Lam spent at the Murray Center for Women in Technology her senior year of high school was “an eye-opener,” she recalls. “It was good to know there was a community of women here willing to help out the next generation. It felt like family after two days.” Since that night, she has enthusiastically repaid the favor. Determined to swell the ranks of women in STEM, Lam joined the executive board of SWE her sophomore year and was elected its president the next. The group’s professional development offerings range from workshops to help students find internships and ace interviews, networking sessions with companies and  ‘mentoring nights’ with engineering alumnae. Under her leadership, SWE has expanded its activities with other minority groups on campus, including the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, the National Society of Black Engineers, and, recently, the Veterans Student Organization. At sprawling conferences in cities such as Baltimore, Nashville and Los Angeles with thousands in attendance, group members met “women engineers from so many different backgrounds who told us their stories and introduced us to companies we’d never heard of.” They, in turn, have captivated younger girls with their own experiences at events such as “Wow! That’s Engineering!” which brought middle-schoolers to the NJIT campus to construct balloon-powered cars, compete in a bridge-building contest and “make your own lip gloss with a simple mixture of cool aid, vegetable shortening and water.”  Lam shies away from adjectives like “nerdy” to describe her field, favoring “problem-solving,” “creative” and “fun,” while pointing to the central role of engineering design in every sphere of life, from industrial parts, to roller coasters, to fancy paper cups. “My goal is to support the women who are currently studying to be engineers and to be a role model for girls who never thought about being engineers.”

Peak Adventure: While interning for Lockheed Martin this past summer, Lam spent a half-day each week working inside an architectural curiosity: a large gray building with the deckhouse of a nuclear strike class cruiser and a radar antenna on top, appearing to the uninitiated like a warship on the horizon in the middle of a New Jersey farm field.  The Vice Admiral James H. Doyle Combat Systems Engineering Development Site, also known as the USS Rancocas (for the nearby Rancocas Creek) or the ‘cornfield cruiser’ to locals, is a principal test center for the Aegis Combat System, a formidable, ship-mounted air-defense weapon capable of neutralizing missile attacks. The building is in fact a commissioned naval vessel where Lockheed Martin engineers work alongside servicemen and women, “and it has the layout of a ship, with the consoles you’d find on board,” Lam recounted. “You feel like an actual sailor inside, with Navy personnel right there.” Lam’s job was to conduct simulations to ensure new weapons-control applications were designed to spec and to then test and retest them. “It was exciting to handle the ship controls, as various members of the team coordinated tests for radar, timing sequences, targets, and other elements of the system,” she said. “I’m not from a military family so it was really interesting to meet people who had served. I also found naval R&D fascinating. Technology advances so quickly in military applications, while there are also incredibly stringent regulations and testing protocols. We need to make sure these systems work the first time – and every time after – our people push the button.”

Ambition: As a systems engineer for Lockheed Martin, Lam hopes to learn more about the different projects each group is working on to better understand the whole system, and to get more involved in design. “I’m also hoping for the chance to work on side projects at Lockheed, such as emerging energy technologies,” she notes. Ultimately, with the addition of a master’s degrees in engineering or business and very likely both, she looks to take a leadership role in developing technologies that “make peoples’ everyday lives simpler and more efficient.” Lam says she also plans to continue advocating for women in STEM. “I’m going to keep putting myself out there, and at this stage, I’ll have real experience to draw from. I want other women to think: ‘I could be that person.’ ”

*member of the Albert Dorman Honors College

Tracey Regan

tregan@njit.edu