Picker Engineering Program Founding Faculty Member Appointed Its Director
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – Smith College appointed an inaugural faculty member within its 10-year-old nationally recognized Picker Engineering Program to lead the distinguished program.
Stanford University scholar and former faculty member at the University of Virginia Borjana Mikic came to Smith in 2001 to help build the nation’s first engineering program at a women’s college – one of the few in a liberal arts setting. Mikic became director July 1, an appointment that overlaps until July 31 with her predecessor, Linda E. Jones, as part of the transition.
“Social and environmental responsibility are – and will continue to be – part of everything we do here at Smith,” said Mikic, a mechanical engineer. “The challenges facing society now and in the future require engineers with adaptable expertise who are capable of working collaboratively across disciplinary boundaries.”
The Picker Engineering Program enrolls more than 100 students taught by nine faculty members in an engineering science curriculum that emphasizes the connection between theory and practice by engaging students in real-world problems.
By the time they graduate, all engineering science majors have completed a yearlong team-based design project with industry, government or non-profit sponsors. Last year, one team designed a geothermal system for the Stop & Shop supermarket chain while another designed a solar-powered micro-irrigation system for a farm in eastern Massachusetts.
“A hallmark of our program is that we help each student find opportunities to integrate her learning into her evolving sense of who she is and how she wants to have an impact on the world,” said Mikic. “Students who are motivated by their passion for the environment, for example, are working with faculty to design new sensors for Arctic balloon flights to measure pollution transport in the atmosphere or integrate renewable energy into the electric power grid.”
Mikic’s own research focuses on identifying the key factors that influence the establishment, maintenance and restoration of biomechanical function in the skeletal connective tissues. She has worked with more than 30 undergraduates, many beginning in their first or second year at Smith and continuing until graduation.
Throughout her career, Mikic has received numerous research grants, including a five-year $1.2 million award from the National Institutes of Health to study a feature of tendon maintenance and repair. Last year, she won a grant from the Dr. Scholl Foundation to fund the work of students evaluating the effectiveness of a particular approach to treating muscular dystrophy.
In 2007, Mikic’s work in the classroom earned her a Kathleen Compton Sherrerd ’54 and John J. F. Sherrerd Prize for Distinguished Teaching. Also at Smith, she served as the inaugural director of the Sherrerd Center for Teaching and Learning, chair of the Faculty Council, and member of the Advising Task Force. At the national level, Mikic has served as the chair of the Liberal Education Division of the American Society for Engineering Education.
After earning her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford, Mikic performed post-doctoral work in developmental biology at the Maurice Mueller Institute for Biomechanics in Bern, Switzerland.
Linda E. Jones is returning to Alfred University to assume a historic appointment as associate vice president leading the New York State College of Ceramics – the first woman to hold that position in the program’s 110-year history. During her six years at Smith, she ushered in the successful accreditation of the Picker Engineering Program through the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET)
Decade of Engineering at Smith College: An Era of Milestones
This year, the Picker program graduated its 160th engineer and marked the 10th anniversary of its founding with the completion of Ford Hall, a state-of-the-art facility that is the new home for engineering as well as the molecular sciences.
Ford Hall earned LEED Gold Certification, a distinction that recognizes the building’s environmentally sustainable design and construction and is a notable achievement for a laboratory facility.
The Picker Engineering Program received ABET accreditation for the bachelor of science degree in engineering science in 2005. In 2009, a bachelor of arts degree in engineering arts was added for students who do not intend to practice as engineers, but who recognize the increasing importance of engineering and technology in fields as varied as architecture, landscape studies, education, medicine, public policy, economics, energy policy and ethics.
In collaboration with the Picker Engineering Program, the Smith College Department of Education and Child Study established a technology-engineering licensure program in 2004 for people intending to teach grades 5 through 12. The program prepares graduates to meet a critical growing need for teachers in this subject area and is one of only two accredited programs in Massachusetts.
Two faculty members in the Picker Engineering Program are National Science Foundation Career Award recipients: Donna Riley and Susan Voss. In 2010, Riley also received the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals Educator of the Year Award.
In 2007, Glenn Ellis, associate professor of engineering, was named U.S. Professor of the Year for Baccalaureate Colleges by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.
In 2009, Andrew Guswa, associate professor of engineering, was named the inaugural director of Smith’s Center for the Environment, Ecological Design, and Sustainability.
In the past 10 years Smith has won more NSF funding for research—over $14 million—than any other select liberal arts college in the nation.