Keegan Dubbs: Engineering Her Way Forward

Keegan Dubbs (MSE'13) had never heard of engineering when her high school physics teacher suggested she pursue it in college. She had always loved math and science, but engineering? At home she mentioned the possibility to her dad, whose surprised reaction now makes her laugh. "He thought I was talking about being a train engineer," she says. Now a junior at the School of Engineering and Applied Science, Dubbs recalls her first look at Penn. "I loved it. I was completely sold after visiting." A native of Minneapolis, MN, Dubbs fell hard for the vibrant, urban campus. Despite her unfamiliarity with engineering and the East Coast, she took a leap of faith.

Today, Dubbs is pursuing a major in Materials Science and Engineering and a minor in Engineering Entrepreneurship. During the past two summers, she had positions at companies both large and small. In 2010, she worked at Medtronic, the biomedical engineering powerhouse in Minneapolis, and this past summer at Hydros, a Philadelphia startup company ( launched by alums from Penn
Engineering and Wharton. At Hydros, she helped market an innovative plastic reusable water bottle with a built-in filter. Profits from the sale of this product help to bring clean drinking water to communities around the world.

"I chose engineering because I knew it would be challenging," Dubbs says. "Engineering teaches you how to think. You can approach any problem and apply the skills you've learned to overcome obstacles."

Winning Combination

During her sophomore year, Dubbs joined the Engineering Deans Advisory Board (EDAB), a group of engineering students who meet with deans and senior administrators to present initiatives targeting both academic and social aspects of the School. So far, their projects have included a new survival guide for freshmen (Surviving the Seven SEAS) and an informal networking event for upperclassmen to meet alumni
and engineering professionals.

Linda Lipski (MSE'13), a classmate and president of the Engineering Student Activities Council (ESAC), describes Dubbs as "very hardworking and fun-loving." Dubbs admits that if anyone's cracking jokes at EDAB meetings, it's usually her. "I've always had a very strong work ethic, but I don't take myself too seriously."

Collaboration Among Women

Women in engineering at Penn are in the minority: 33 percent of Penn Engineering undergraduates are women, which is higher than the national average of 19 percent. That's not all bad, women students note. In fact, it can be exhilarating. "I love it. I feed off of that," Dubbs says. "It distinguishes you from the crowd. I feel this pride in being a female engineer." Lipski agrees. "Women attracted to engineering really
want to be there."

In large part, women students feel their smaller numbers feed their competitive spirit and encourage collaboration. Michele Grab, director of the Advancing Women in Engineering program, outlines how the School works hard to attract and retain women, offering them social and academic support. "We want women to feel they have just as much voice in the room."

Far-reaching Materials

Dubbs' major, Materials Science and Engineering, focuses on designing more useful materials, such as polymers, metals, glass and ceramics, for a host of applications. Examples include strengthening the shell of smart phones so they won't break when (inevitably) dropped, or creating the first major airliner fuselage (Boeing 787 Dreamliner) that is polymer-based, not aluminum-based, making it lighter and more fuel
efficient, notes Karen I. Winey, professor of Materials Science and Engineering.

Winey, who is also Dubbs' advisor, notes that a materials science engineer "can have an impact in many areas," which appeals to students like Dubbs. In her classroom last year, Dubbs was "enthusiastic and engaged in the curriculum."

With courses in subjects such as structural materials, quantum physics and nanotechnology behind her, Dubbs is looking ahead. She is thinking about pursuing an MBA, or her most lofty goal, a joint JD/MBA degree."It's always good to have that ‘shoot-for-the-stars' attitude," she says. Chances are, Dubbs will hit her target.

View the article in Penn Engineering magazine "Keegan Dubbs: Engineering Her Way Forward" by Beth Burrell.

Interested? Learn more!

Materials Science and Engineering website
Engineering Entrepreneurship website
EDAB website

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