Associate Professor of Aerospace Engineering
The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor
Hi! My name is Anouck Girard. I am a teacher, an engineer, a dreamer, someone who enjoys pushing the limit of knowledge and coming up with new, clever ways of doing things. I am a maker, a musician, an artist, a skier, a knitter, a cat person, and a mom.
Work I do:
My field is aerospace engineering, and this makes me a real life rocket scientist. As a college professor, I do three main things: I teach classes (on airplanes, satellites, and how things fly); I do research (on how to make vehicles, like airplanes, satellites and cars, more autonomous); and I serve the community, by doing things like K12 outreach, sharing my work with people, and helping with conference and journal organization.
Things I was interested in as a kid:
I was always interested in making a wide variety of things. My mother and grandmother taught me fiber arts (embroidery and sewing and crochet), my uncles were always building tree houses, or concrete ramps, or fixing my grandmother’s barn, there was always a vegetable garden, we baked. I also loved reading, and I practiced karate. In high school, I became interested in robotics.
Favorite subjects in school:
My best subject in school was foreign languages. I studied three, German, Spanish and Chinese. We spoke French and English at home already. I loved playing with words, translating and exploiting nuance, and seriously considered becoming an interpreter.
When it happens to you, it doesn’t really feel like a challenge or a barrier. It’s just the way things are. I only had one sister, no brothers, and we were treated pretty much the same. If anything, schoolwork came more easily to me, and so I had an easier time than my sister, at least academically. And then, you get used to be the only woman in the room. It wasn’t until I had two awesome children of my own, one boy and one girl, that I started realizing in earnest how differently the world treats them. Sometimes it makes me angry.
Advice for girls NOT interested in STEAM careers:
There are so many different STEAM careers – if people knew about them, everybody would be interested in at least one. STEAM careers are about understanding how things work, how to make them more efficient, how to make them more beautiful, how to dream the future you want for your kids, and make it happen. Make sure you take a little time to understand the options before you dismiss them.
Advice for girls interested in STEAM careers:
My favorite part of engineering is the dreaming: If you could make the world any way you wanted, what would you pick? Dream big, but take one step at a time. Pick a general direction you like, face that way, and take a step. Every trajectory is made of many small steps. We need you, so don’t give up. If you feel stuck, ask for help.
One important “nugget” of information:
You can do things for the experience of doing them. You don’t have to be awesome at everything. There is so much pressure on kids right now. Comparing yourself to other people constantly is not a recipe for happiness, because you can always find people that are better or worse than you at any one thing. Being average at things is way better than not doing them at all. It’s the sum total of your experiences that makes you who YOU are.