March 31, 2022, 3:00-4:00 PM

Solving engineering problems is demanding from a technical standpoint but dealing with people’s preconceived notions can be an equal trial. Susan will discuss the challenges she has faced while finding her confidence and place of belonging throughout her engineering career and will offer tips for dealing with similar situations.

Susan Kolbay is Principal Engineer and Vice President of Terranalysis, Inc.  Since receiving her BSME with a Green Engineering concentration from Virginia Tech in 2002, Susan earned an MS in Engineering Management from The George Washington University in 2006. She has worked as a senior mechanical engineer with Leidos; a senior facility mechanical engineer with Booz Allen Hamilton; a senior mechanical engineer with Whitman, Requardt, & Associates LLP; an associate, mechanical engineer with Girard Engineering, P.C.; an Engineer I with Hayes, Seay, Mattern, and Mattern; and a test engineer at Virginia Tech. Susan was a volunteer math tutor at Woodson Adult High School for three years and also is a PE and LEED AP.


Julia Alspaugh is a Senior Staff Engineer for Stryker on the Digital R&D located in Memphis, TN. She has 8 years of experience working on instruments for total ankle replacement surgery, specializing in patient-specific, 3D printed surgical guides and digital pre-operative navigation. Julia received her BS in Mechanical Engineering and a BA in French from Virginia Tech, and a MS in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue.

Nicole Nastaran Hashemi is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Iowa State University. She received her PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Virginia Tech in 2008. Her research interests are in the areas of microfluidics, biomedical microdevices, and materials. She is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry. Hashemi has been the recipient of the NSF EAPSI Fellowship, NRC Postdoctoral Fellowship, NRL Research Publication Award, Big 12 Faculty Fellowship Award, and ISU Early Career Engineering Faculty Research Award. Hashemi has also been selected as both the National Academy of Engineering US Frontiers of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences Kavli Frontiers of Science. She is an Associate Editor of ASME Journal of Biomechanical Engineering.

Mary Jones Berry, P.E. is a 1962 Virginia Tech Mechanical Engineering graduate with a MS in ME from George Washington University. She retired in 2008 as the Executive Director of Engineering at Aerojet Corporation. Her expertise is in solid propellant rocket motor design. She devoted part of her career as the chief engineer of the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS). She was the first woman registered as a Professional Engineer in the Commonwealth of Virginia. She was the first woman to be inducted in the Academy of Engineering Excellence at Virginia Tech and in 2002 the District of Columbia Council of Engineering and Architectural Societies awarded her the Engineer of the Year award. Mary is a former President of the Virginia Tech Alumni Association and now served as an honorary member of the Alumni Board.

Robin Ott received her bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech in 1995. She has twenty years of diverse industry experience that includes working as a design engineer, Application Engineer, and most recently, Robin worked as Senior Director of Project Management for a small bio-tech company called Intrexon. Robin joined her alma mater’s faculty in 2015, coordinating and teaching the Capstone Senior Design program in Mechanical Engineering. She has also completed her graduate certificate in Engineering Education, leading to the development of her research focus area in the student transition from capstone to work.

This seminar is presented by the Mechanical Engineering Committee for Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity for All as part of an ongoing commitment to expand the practice and awareness of diversity within our department.