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Sohn Mye: A Woman Who Survived in Engineering

Those who have a friend studying science and engineering would probably have asked this question at least once: “How many female students are there in your major?” As the recognition that mostly male students study Science and Engineering is prevalent, there is an organization that supports the fostering and continuous growth of female scientists and engineers. It is called Women in Science, Engineering, and Technology (WISET), and it was established in 2011. Recently, in July, WISET held Female Students Engineering Week. The Sungkyun Times (SKT) met Professor Sohn Mye, who is the head of the SKKU (Sungkyunkwan University) WISET Project.

Sohn Mye, Who Entered the Field of Science and Engineering

Q1. Please introduce yourself.

My name is Sohn Mye. I am a professor from the Department of Systemic Management Engineering at SKKU. I also graduated from the Department of Industrial Engineering (presently known as Systemic Management Engineering) in 1985. I have been working at the school since 2004.

Q2. You have a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree in Engineering. Entering the Department of Industrial Engineering was your first step to become an engineer. What are the reasons why you chose this major?

I did a lot of club activities with students studying in various departments. What I was originally familiar with while studying engineering was solving problems mathematically and finding accurate answers, but what I felt after coming to university was that the problems were not solved according to certain rules. So, I entered the Department of Industrial Engineering as a sophomore looking for a major that could help me solve social problems more practically, not just using formulas or rules.

Q3. What career path did you map out when you were a student?

There were 1,400 students in total when I entered the College of Engineering. But there were only nine female students. I was thinking about how to survive, so I studied hard. In her book The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir writes, “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” I focused on studying because I wanted to break the stereotype about women and show that I am better than others. When I came into society, I was disappointed that few companies hired women in engineering. So, I went to graduate school to improve myself. And I thought the institute would be better for me to study, so I worked at the institute for 16 years.

Q4. What made you decide to become an educator?

I was worried about moving from an institute to a school. “Can I do it well?”: that is what I thought a lot about at the time because I’d never thought about a career in education. Nevertheless, I worked up the courage since SKKU was the school I graduated from. Even though I may not be a good educator, I always hope that my heart works in a good way for my juniors. And I think it was a good decision to be brave.

Future of Science and Engineering Fostered by Professor Sohn Mye

Q5. What is WISET and what is your role as the head of the SKKU WISET Project?

WISET is an organization that started through the hope that female students can exhibit their abilities in the fields of science and engineering. For female middle and high school students, WISET helps them have fun and confidence in engineering. It also gives advice from seniors to students who are already in the science and engineering sectors to replenish gender differences and settle down well in society. And for women who become mothers, it helps them to continue their careers after giving birth. In this sense, WISET was established to support women’s entire life cycles. What I do as the head of the project in school is not that much. There are many male professors in the College of Engineering, and they communicate with me for female students in science and engineering. So I just ask them for help or participation in programs.

Logo of WISET (wiset.co.kr)

Q6. In July, the Girl’s Engineering Week was held to encourage middle and high school girls to enter the science and engineering fields. Is there anything you focused on during this special lecture?

For middle and high school students, entering university is the greatest interest. So in the lecture, I tried to give information about how the world will change after four to five years and the aspect of change, based on my experience and knowledge. These things are not far from us, so I told students that we can make all of these things. I hope the students will become more interested and have confidence in various concepts that dominate the times.

Poster of Girl’s Engineering Week (wiset.co.kr)

Q7. What did the students taking the special lecture think about science and engineering? Are there any questions that impressed you?

First, I remember the question “Where will Information Technology (IT) be used more in the future?” I answered that IT is already in our lives and will continue to grow, so I recommended studying more about it. Another question was “What is engineering?” It’s a very basic and obvious question. I answered that I think engineering is a technological solution to problems that people face in their daily lives.

Q8. SKKU is the only school selected in Gyeonggi Province for the R-WeSET (Regional-Women Empowerment in Science, Engineering, and Technology) Project, one of the WISET Projects. Is there a reason you pushed ahead with this project at SKKU?

In the case of SKKU, we participated with a sense of duty to help students across the country and cultivate people of talent. The fundamental purpose of the R-WeSET project is to assure that students in science and engineering around the country can benefit by giving a hand. Plus, if there is an industrial cluster in each province, the purpose would be to specialize students in related fields, so that they can get a job more easily. To be differentiated from other universities, SKKU endeavors to allow students from various regions to benefit through many experiences such as laboratory tours, practice exercises, and hands-on activities. Also, we invite an admissions officer from SKKU to explain how they can enter the university.

Laboratory of SKKU (swb.skku.edu)

Q9. Besides the WISET project, are there any programs for students in science and engineering at SKKU?

One of the projects from the Engineering Education Innovation Center (EEIC) is the S-HERO (Super/SKKU-High-touch, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Resonance to Human and Society, Original Creativity) Project. It’s a kind of resolving social problem project, so about four graduate students and a professor make one team and solve problems on the spot. Students from various departments assemble to solve problems, so they can develop confidence and communication skills. Plus, EEIC holds various events in which 12 universities across the country cooperate to define the qualifications that the future engineering workforce should have.

Professor Sohn Mye’s Future Goal as an Engineer

Q10. Are there any projects you would like to promote to foster talent in the field
of science and engineering?

SKKU already implements a lot of projects, but what I thought when I chose my educational career was that I wanted to be a role model for my juniors. So I’m interested in the mentoring program. I hope that students can find out what their interests are through a customized individual mentoring program. This mentoring relationship can continue not only in the university but also in society.

Q11. Any last words for the Kingos?
“Chance favors only the prepared mind”: that’s my favorite lesson. Without preparation, the opportunity can pass without knowing whether it is an opportunity. So I hope that you work hard to get the chance to develop yourself. I hope you’ll catch the opportunity while preparing well.

Professor Sohn Mye Giving a Lecture (wiset.skku.edu)

정민주  sophiejmj@g.skku.edu

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