Q+A with Leah Roldan

In December of 2015, International Women and Girls Day in Science was to recognize the critical role women and girls play in science and technology. To celebrate, the Case School of Engineering is sharing stories of remarkable women across the quad from students to faculty. Learn about their research, their journey to engineering and the advice they have for other women. 

Leah Roldan

Biomedical engineering graduate student

Why did you choose to study engineering?

My physics high school teacher first encouraged me to try it since I enjoyed physics, math, and biology, and it seemed like a great mix of the three. After attending some college open houses and talking to engineers, I realized that engineering covers a broad range of career options, including biotech development, which I was interested in.

What is your favorite or most meaningful thing about studying engineering?

Being able to work on technology that can help improve quality of life, and getting to play with different techniques and equipment in the lab.

Were there women in STEM who came before you who helped influence you to pursue this field? If so, who were they and how did they impact you?

I had trouble finding mentors and had strong imposter syndrome until I started working in industry after my masters. My first boss was a woman chemical engineer who always encouraged me, trusted me to make decisions, and helped me get a new job when I became interested in a project in R&D. She always had such a strong and confident personality that I admire, and was open about the hurdles she went through as the only woman engineer at her first job.

What advice do you have for young women (grade school or high school age) who are interested in science and pursuing a career in STEM?

Don't let anyone tell you what you're interested in and trust your gut if you enjoy STEM. If you haven't had a lot of exposure to engineering so far, there's still plenty of time to learn and decide, and you are very capable of learning. My one regret is that I didn't study electrical engineering during my undergrad partly because I kept getting told I "didn't look like an electrical engineer." Luckily I get to study electrical engineering as part of my PhD in the neural engineering field and use these principles as part of my research. Also don't be scared to ask people about their career path and what they do, it's something I started doing a lot after my undergrad and I always wished I had started earlier.