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3Qs: a conversation with Dean Aubry

Nadine Aubry, the College of Engineering’s new dean, is a widely-known leader in the field of mechanical engineering, particularly in fluid mechanics, and was elected as a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 2011. Here, she discusses why she chose Northeastern, and the potential programs and initiatives that she would like to implement in order to expand students’ global horizons.

What attracted you to Northeastern?

The great momentum. There is a lot of energy here from the students, from the faculty, from the administration, and it’s very exciting for me. This is a great opportunity to make an impact. I also love that we’ve been appointing new faculty. People make the university, so I look forward to hiring outstanding young faculty who are going to be the next generation of teachers, researchers and key players in the world.

While we know you’ve only been on campus for a short time, have you had a chance to think about new programs or initiatives?

Northeastern is very focused on international opportunities for students, and I’d like to expand on what our college offers. But it’s very challenging for engineering students to study or work abroad because of the rigor of the curriculum and its rigid prerequisite structure.

What we did at Carnegie Mellon was to introduce short trips—10 days to three weeks, depending on the time of year—to developing countries. The students would teach basic engineering principles to local children, participate in construction projects, install water pumps and help design pollution-control systems; it was amazing what they could accomplish and how well received they were. These trips changed the lives of our students, in the way they see the world and the power of engineering.

I’d like to try something like that here. I believe that many big opportunities in engineering are going to be in developing countries, so we should open the eyes of our students to these opportunities now.

As far as new degree programs, there are great opportunities here in the health sciences, because of the hospitals in Boston. We don’t have a biomedical engineering department, but we do have a graduate biomedical engineering program. There has been some discussion about expanding in that area to further develop our undergraduate program and research potential. That’s something I’m very interested in.

What inspired you to enter the field of engineering?

I always wanted to make an impact in the world, and I was fortunate to have my father—an engineer and a mentor to me—telling me that being an engineer was a good way to do that, a way to solve problems. He also taught me about the excitement of being an engineer, creating new things for the very first time.

Not many women, especially at the time, had the chance that I had; it has made me very serious about our obligation to mentor young women in engineering—and Northeastern is an excellent place for that.

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