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Constructing a Meaningful Life

Rochester Woman Magazine

By Arlene Hisiger, Photo by Lizz Comstock

In 1989, Dara Lubin left Boston University with a deep appreciation for Shakespeare and Yeats and a firm desire to translate her newly-minted Bachelor of Arts in English Literature into real-world experience. Then reality set in.

Choosing not to follow the commonly held practice of her fellow English literature majors, to either pursue a Ph.D. In English Literature or become a lawyer, Lubin found herself shuttling between three low-wage jobs to make ends meet. Clearly, there had to be a better way to construct a more meaningful life.

She found the solution in the field of engineering and began her studies in Mechanical Engineering at RIT.

Why engineering?

While her fascination with airplanes and her passion for solving problems by taking things apart and figuring out how they work, partly explains her decision, Lubin also views her choice as adding dimensions –moving toward an integrated whole. “People are complex,” she says, “and should not be limited to narrow fields of interest, skills or expertise.”

The following excerpt from National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” tribute to the recently deceased Steve Jobs, mirrors this sentiment. In that segment, Jobs reveals an interesting facet to the Macintosh computer’s success. “Part of what made Macintosh successful,” Jobs said, “was that the people working on the Macintosh were musicians, poets, artists, zoologists and historians, who also happened to be the best computer scientists in the world.”

Family also plays a pivotal role in Lubin’s choice of engineering. Her dad, an accomplished physicist and founding director of the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics, was her primary role model. Additional inspiration and support comes from her older brother, a research scientist and assistant director at Scripps Labs in California, as well as from her very supportive husband, who is an electrical engineer.

Graduating RIT in 1999, Lubin, this time, made the transition from academic to working world with ease. Her smooth transition was in large part due to rit’s required five co-op blocks, or internships, as part of the course of study. Two of those student internships were with Xerox. When Xerox made what Lubin terms “a nice offer” she came on board, first as a mechanical designer and currently is a two-time patent holder, mechanical integration engineer.

In retrospect, Lubin says, “I wish I would have taken a double major. Had I been exposed to female engineers in high school things would have been different. Back then, I always thought that engineers were these brilliant males. That’s why I feel so strongly about the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).”

In addition to her professional responsibilities at Xerox, Lubin is president of the Rochester professional section of SWE(there are student sections as well). “I feel strongly,” Lubin says, “about getting the word out to middle and high school age students, as well as women, regarding the exciting and lucrative field of engineering.”

Founded in 1982, one of SWE’s main goals is to promote positive interaction between young women and seasoned veterans in the fields of science and engineering. “I don’t want any female engineers or those who are contemplating entering the field, to feel isolated,” Lubin says. To that end, SWE members hold networking events, mentor and support one another and benefit from the organization’s career services. SWE also conducts outreach programs to middle and high schools in the form of lectures, science demonstrations and one-to-one mentorships. In addition, SWE annually awards a $1,000 student scholarship to a third-year female engineering student with a 3.0 Gpa or higher.

One of their flagship events is hosting an interactive engineering display at “Science Saturday,” at the Rochester Museum and Science Center. The other is providing Thanksgiving dinner with a “dollop of science” at the Sojourner House, an organization that provides supportive housing to families in need. Along with turkey and all the trimmings, SWE members aim to whet the residents’ appetites for science and technology through scientific experiments and explanatory talks about the fields of engineering and science. Each resident is also presented with a gift bag containing a calculator and ged workbooks. Children receive science and nature-themed books. “What is so special about the event,” Lubin enthuses, “is that a disparate group of women - professional women, students, residents and social workers - unite in bettering women’s status.”

The title of a recent American Association of University Women report, “Why So Few?” makes provocative reference to the paucity of females in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. For Lubin, there is only one response: Learn more about SWE!

Arlene Hisiger is a freelance writer known as the Word Tailor. 


Contact Arlene at 585-442-6108 or wordtailor@aol.com
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