Student Profile: Jenny Ardelean PhD ’19 Travels to Seoul for Leadership Conference

PhD candidate Jenny Ardelean, third from right in second row, traveled to South Korea to participate in the highly selective Ewha-Luce International Seminar for women in STEM.
—Photo courtesy of Jenny Ardelean

Outstanding research and a passion for welcoming more women into the sciences helped send mechanical engineering PhD candidate Jenny Ardelean MS’14 to South Korea this summer for Expanding Horizons, the Ewha-Luce International Seminar (ELIS). Based at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, the highly selective 18-day program offers extensive professional development for two dozen women in STEM fields from Asia and around the world, as well as expeditions to historic and cultural landmarks. Ardelean was nominated by Professor Karen Kasza, Claire Booth Luce Assistant Professor of mechanical engineering.

Ardelean works in Professor James Hone’s group on optical properties of two-dimensional semiconductors. After studying physics at the University of Chicago, where she co-founded a chapter of the Society of Women in Physics, the Long Island native came to Columbia in 2012 to pursue her interests in energy systems and alternative fuels. Choosing among labs to join, she found herself drawn back to her roots in physics, which would allow her to pursue fundamental research potentially applicable not only to sustainability, but also to areas ranging from photovoltaics to quantum computing.

An active member of the Graduate Society of Women Engineers, Ardelean met Professor Kasza while working with the Mechanical Engineering Graduate Association. She applied for the ELIS seminar this spring and landed in South Korea in late June to participate in the intensive program designed to foster leadership skills and help pave the way for future generations of women engineers.

“The most interesting part was getting a glimpse into how research and PhD programs are run in different institutions in the U.S. and various parts of Asia, as well as discussing the issues which specifically women face in the scientific research community, [both] in academia and industry around the world,” Ardelean said.

In forums, workshops, and industry visits participants explored different cultural manifestations of conscious and unconscious bias against women in STEM, and discussed strategies and best practices for overcoming—and one day eliminating—those challenges.

“Dispelling implicit bias isn’t only about changing others, but also changing how women and girls see ourselves,” Ardelean said.

Back in Morningside Heights, Ardelean aims to complete her PhD in spring 2019 and embark on a career in industrial R&D for semiconductor processing. She also expects to keep in touch with her new worldwide network, including several colleagues in her field, whom she plans to see regularly at conferences and professional gatherings.

“All the participants are doing a good job keeping in contact through all sorts of social media and our giant 25-person group chat,” she said.

by Jesse Adams

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