AWE started Engineering alum on path that led her back to Rowan as a professor

AWE started Engineering alum on path that led her back to Rowan as a professor

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Dr. Sarah Bauer is a little bit in awe about the path her life has taken, and AWE played a role in that.

Bauer, 27, graduated from Rowan University with a bachelor’s degree in civil and environmental engineering in May 2013.

In August 2018, a little more than five years later, she will be returning to her department in the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering as an assistant professor – the first full-time, tenure-track professor to earn a degree there.

AWE helped get her started

Her path from student to professor started in part when she attended Rowan Engineering’s Attracting Women into Engineering program as a rising eighth grader in the Kingsway Regional school district.

Bauer’s parents, James and Carol, encouraged the Woolwich Township native to explore the program that introduces middle school girls to engineering fundamentals. They had learned about it – and Rowan Engineering – through their son, Joshua, who was a student in mechanical engineering at Rowan. (Bauer’s sister, Dr. Rachel Bauer, earned a dual degree from Rowan in theater performance and English. She is teaching in the STEAM Academy program this summer at Rowan and is an adjunct professor in the theater department during the academic year.)

“My parents said, ‘Wouldn’t this be a great program for you to learn more about engineering,’” she recalled. “I had a great experience attending the AWE program at Rowan. What I took away the most was what engineering is and how I could see myself fitting into a career in engineering, like I saw my brother doing.”

In addition to the inspiration from AWE, which is supported by PSEG, and her brother, Bauer also got a “push” into the field from her own achievements – she excelled in science and math in high school and thought engineering would offer her good opportunities.

As an AWE participant, she met a lot of the faculty she would one day have as professors, including Dr. Kauser Jahan, head of the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering and the founder of AWE, now in its 20th year.

Conducted research, highly involved

Bauer went on to conduct research with Jahan on the feasibility of algae-derived biofuels as a Rowan undergraduate student; to volunteer with her for Engineers on Wheels, which brings hands-on engineering demonstrations to local schools and youth organizations; and to work with Melanie Basantis, outreach director, on summer programs for middle and high school students. She also was president of Rowan’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers her junior year and a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

After graduation, Bauer attend the University of Virginia on a full-tuition fellowship, with a position as a graduate research assistant. She earned her master’s degree in 2015 and Ph.D. this year, both in civil and environmental engineering.

She said she knew she wanted to enter academia while in college here, conducting research during the academic years and during the summers. “I really enjoy engineering research. I like solving problems, especially those that could help the environment and our society. Pursuing a career in academia will allow me to continue my passion for research and educating future generations.”

Great opportunity

She applied to several schools and interviewed with about half. Come August, she’ll set up her office in Rowan Hall, where she took classes. She’ll teach junior-level Sustainable Civil and Environmental Engineering in Engineering Hall starting in September. She will focus her research, which she started at the University of Virginia, on evaluating the sustainability of producing energy from organic waste biomasses.

“It’s such a great opportunity to come back and teach at Rowan and have the chance to work alongside the outstanding professors who taught me as an undergraduate student. I had such great experiences as a student here, working in the summer with AWE and other programs and doing research,” said Bauer, who is a member of SWE, the American Society of Engineering Education and the American Chemical Society. “I feel like I’m coming back home.”