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The Engineer That Could

Since January, Christine Johnson '04 has had a job waiting for her. After graduation she joins the Philadelphia-based firm Public Financial Management, Inc., a capital formation and investment advisory firm serving state and local governments. It's her entry into the field of public finance, a career to which she can bring what she has honed at Smith: strong communication and abstract reasoning skills and an understanding of the scientific and mathematical principles that govern the practice of all engineering disciplines. "Smith engineers can do anything," she insists.

Yes, anything. While an engineering student at Smith, the Manhattan native gathered work experience and insight into the field's various disciplines by signing up for internships every summer -- working with environmental engineers at Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan; researching proteins on ceramic surfaces at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York; and writing reports on the research and development program at Bechtel Corporation in San Francisco. For two consecutive years, Johnson has been a member of Smith engineering teams invited to participate in the space administration's Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program and to conduct experiments at NASA's Johnson Space Center. Last year she was among seven engineering students who studied sensory changes in humans during minimum-gravity flights at the space center. This year she joined teammates to conduct a new experiment -- how liquid lubricants adsorb to metal surfaces in microgravity.

Beyond engineering, Johnson has served as chair of the Academic Honor Board and studied history, Latin and philosophy, collecting almost enough credits in the latter to have declared a minor. "Engineering is not a disparate field to me; it is all part of the big picture," she notes. "I liked being able to branch out and take some other classes. I don't consider my philosophy classes to be much different from my science classes. They are both about explaining the world in different languages."

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