Women Leaders in Engineering: Liz Thompson

General Engineering Chair Liz Thompson / Photo by Dennis Steers

This summer, we are celebrating women leaders in engineering by featuring insightful Q&As with leaders within the College of Engineering. These women are transforming engineering culture, making a significant impact on students and paving the way for a brighter future. This week, we are featuring Liz Thompson, General Engineering Department director and Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering Department professor.

How has your outlook on the future been enhanced by your engineering experience?   

Engineering and technology have allowed our society to achieve incredible things. The standard of living and life expectancy for all humans has increased over the last 100 years. However, this has come at a cost for our planet and with increasing equity gaps. Since we live in an engineered world — if you look around, most everything you see has been influenced by an engineer — we have a huge responsibility to do better in designing with the environment and historically oppressed communities in mind.  

How have you used your engineering experience to enhance the lives of others?   

I consider myself an educator who teaches engineering. I have incorporated everything I know about equity and access into my classes. While teaching, I challenge students to consider the communities they are designing for, the impact on the environment and the ethical considerations of designs. 

What possibilities can engineering bring to improve our community?   

If we listen well to those impacted by inequities, I believe we can alleviate suffering for many. It requires humility in all engineers to understand they have one perspective, and it might not be the one that is required to design for social justice. 

How do you work to inspire the next generation of engineers?   

I have a deep belief in students. I desire for them liberation of thought and ideas so they can achieve their personal dreams and work to make this planet a better place. I hope I communicate this in every interaction, every topic, every teaching method and every conversation.  

How does collaboration benefit the engineering industry?  

I believe people in the industry are looking for better ways to be: ways that include all people, are kind and nurturing, create products and services that enhance equity, and care for our planet. I hope I am educating students who can lead this effort.