Alyssa Pasquale was always good at science and math classes in school.
“I enjoy finding an equation that ‘makes things work’ and gets me the correct answer at the end of the process,” she said. “I knew I wanted to do something tech-related but didn’t narrow it down to engineering until I took a STEM program in my senior year of high school. I was lucky enough to take tours of a lot of different academic, industrial and lab spaces, and I liked what the engineers did the best. For me, becoming interested in engineering was and is an ongoing process; it is not just one moment.”
Pasquale earned her bachelor’s degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and both a master’s degree and Ph.D. from Boston University, all in electrical engineering. Along the way she worked for GE Energy in the generator department, and she did her postdoctoral research at Argonne National Laboratory.
“In my job at GE, I worked on putting together design documents that were used to build GE wind turbines,” she said. “In my postdoctoral research, I worked on fabricating nanomaterials that could be used as tiny little detectors for things like dangerous gasses or biological agents such as tumors or bacteria.”
As a Ph.D. student spending all of her spare time on her dissertation, Pasquale spent several semesters as a teaching assistant, which would change her career path.
“It dawned on me one day that I enjoyed the teaching part more than anything, as I got to work directly with students and see them learn and grow,” she said. “Watching a student have the ‘light bulb’ moment where they figure something out is the best thing I get to experience in my job. It is also immensely rewarding to see students take up electronics as a hobby and come show off their own personal electronics projects that they work on even after they’re done taking my classes.”
Now at College of DuPage, Pasquale hopes her students begin to think like an engineer.
“I want them to learn how to troubleshoot and find their way out of the problems and dilemmas that they will invariably find themselves stuck in,” she said. “I always tell my students that I am a good engineer because I have made all of the mistakes so many times that it’s easier for me to recognize and fix them. Understanding that making mistakes is part of the process, and not a personal failing, is a fundamental engineering skill that my students need to learn.”
Inspiration comes in the moments when Pasquale is not looking for it.
“I solve my problems best when I am not thinking about them. I have literally woken up in the middle of the night with the solution to a problem that I was pondering the day before. Inspiration always seems to come when I least expect it!”