Access and Opportunity

Exploring Career Opportunities

An Interdisciplinary Approach to Engineering

Informing students about numerous career options is a task that Alex Gontar, Ph.D., doesn’t take lightly. In order to present additional choices beyond the well-known areas of materials and electrical engineering, he invites other departments from the College, such as Biology; Chemistry; Architecture, Design and Construction into his Engineering 102 and 202 classes. From these experts, students hear firsthand about each field and the vital role that engineering plays in each of these areas.

“I give them a perspective in the classroom that is much larger, about many more engineering fields than in the College’s lab,” said Gontar.

Technology is playing an increasingly important part in all areas of engineering. Students learn engineering design principles, as well as how to use specialized software, as soon as they enter the program. Gontar also takes students to the labs at the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University to talk with experts and conduct experiments. According to data from the Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board, the city is in need of biomedical, environmental, computer software and nuclear engineers with bachelor’s degrees to fill vacant positions. Chemical plant operators and postsecondary engineering teachers also are included on the Philadelphia in-demand careers list.

The College’s Engineering program prepares students for baccalaureate programs, and many graduates go on to attend Temple, Drexel and Penn State universities. The College maintains Dual Admissions programs and transfer agreements with Temple and Drexel, making the transfer of credits easy on graduates. “The engineering credits transfer to most institutions around the area,” said Gontar.

Tamika Wilson photo
Tamika L. Wilson

Tamika L. Wilson, Engineering program alumna and current Drexel student, credits the College and the interdisciplinary classroom discussions for helping her choose a career path.

“It lets you know that there is a lot more out there than you thought. You don’t have to be in one area—it was a very helpful experience,” said Wilson.

Physics electronic instrument photo

Just having finished her junior year and working toward a degree in Chemical Engineering, Wilson accomplished an impressive feat earlier this year for an undergraduate—she is published in her field. Wilson is a co-author of a research article, “Viscosity and Density Values from Excitation Level Response of Piezoelectric-Excited Cantilever Sensors,” which was published on in May 2007. While at the College, she was a founding member of the College’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, the first community college chapter in the nation. She also received multiple leadership awards from College organizations. In addition to an Engineering degree, Wilson earned degrees in Culture, Science and Technology, and Science and Mathematics in her five years at the College.

As she progresses further in her field, Wilson needs to know the workings of more intricate equipment and software. At Drexel, she used an Impedance Analyzer with Labview software to view graphs that measured the frequency against the phase angle of an object.

Wilson plans to attend graduate school and earn a Ph.D. She also plans to stay in Philadelphia. As far as securing a position as an engineer, Wilson is interested in working for such companies as GlaxoSmithKline, Rohm and Haas and Merck. However, she says she “would really like to work with students” and become an academic advisor or professor.

“If I didn’t have the College’s programs, I wouldn’t be here right now. They prepared me enormously well. I wouldn’t have gone as far as I have,” said Wilson.