Highlighting the Women of ABE

In honor of Women’s History Month, the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering highlights the women faculty who contribute to the success of research and teaching in ABE at Iowa State University. These women demonstrate leadership and innovation in the classroom and laboratories and working with students, faculty, and industrial partners.

Amy Kaleita
Associate Professor
Land and Water Resources Engineering

What is your greatest professional accomplishment?

In 2014, I got my Professional Engineering License (PE) – you would think three engineering degrees would have made me feel like a “real” engineer, but this was what finally did it! My runner-up accomplishment is that in 2013 I was invited to give a talk at the fall meeting of the National Academy of Engineering – it was like being at the Oscars!

Why do you like being a faculty member at Iowa State?

Iowa State has a lot of great people working toward meeting the land-grant mission, from the administration to the faculty and staff to the students. I like the sense that we’re all in it together.

Who is an influential woman in your life that gives you inspiration? Why?

A dear family friend, Rev. Marjorie Holland, served in the Navy in WWII, and went on to become an ordained minister and served for many years as a prison chaplain.  She did hard jobs in tough places, but she was the most open and kind person you could ever meet.  She was firm in her principles but gentle in her words and actions – a really awe-inspiring combination.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I love learning new things, and I love helping other people learn new things.

What advice can you give young women in your field?    

Be confident, and share your thoughts! At times early in my career when I was more uncertain about my ability to contribute, I didn’t ask probing questions when I wanted to, or I didn’t volunteer answers or insights when I thought somebody might disagree.  All those missed opportunities to move the conversation forward or to offer my ideas were such a waste!

Adina Howe
Assistant Professor
Land and Water Resources Engineering

What is your greatest professional accomplishment?

The professional accomplishment I’m proudest of is being selected to be a faculty here at Iowa State.  It took me over ten years to get here, and it was worth it!

Why do you like being a faculty member at Iowa State?

The people at Iowa State are what I like most about being here. My colleagues and students are remarkably kind. I appreciate being a part of the “family” environment here at ISU.

Who is an influential woman in your life that gives you inspiration? Why?

My mom was very influential in my life.  She came to the United States speaking very little English and went to universities for her professional degree – all while raising two not-so-easy kids very much on her own.  Her sacrifices and motivation were a real force in my life.

More regularly, I find inspiration from the women I work with every day.  We have incredible women faculty, scientists, staff, students, and mothers in this community.   I’m lucky to have you by my side!

What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of the job is the people I work with — I laugh every day with colleagues and students.  I enjoy watching my students as they learn new things and become increasingly independent.  I’m grateful that we are doing research that matters with people who care.

What advice can you give young women in your field?

It’s incredibly fulfilling to find contentment, but it is not necessarily easy.  You have to listen to yourself and work hard to find and maintain what makes you happy.  This has been true for both my personal and professional parts of my life.

Gretchen Mosher
Assistant Professor
Occupational Safety Engineering &
Biological and Process Engineering and Technology

What is your greatest professional accomplishment?

I am most proud of earning a doctorate and working in one of the top-rated departments of agricultural and biosystems engineering in the country.

Why do you like being a faculty member at Iowa State?

I enjoy being a faculty member because I do something different every day. I also get to use innovative solutions to help people solve problems and work with a variety of people.

Who is an influential woman in your life that gives you inspiration? Why?

My mother played a major role in my development as a person – she has been there to encourage me when I needed it. I have also been lucky to work with excellent female colleagues in all the positions I’ve had in my professional career. The mentoring and support they’ve given me has been appreciated.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I love continuous improvement, working through a challenging situation successfully, and pushing people to accomplish more than they thought they could.

What advice can you give young women in your field?

My advice to young women is to know what you are good at and what you are not. Seek out opportunities to stretch your skills in areas where you are strongest. Advocate for yourself and other competent females when you have the opportunity.

Michelle Soupir
Associate Professor
Land and Water Resources Engineering

What is your greatest professional accomplishment?

In 2014 I received the New Holland Young Researcher award from the American Society of Agricultural and Biological (ASABE), my primary professional society.  It was a great honor to be recognized by my peers.

Why do you like being a faculty member at Iowa State?

I love the opportunity to work with such amazing colleagues.  I am constantly challenged by the knowledge of my peers and the opportunities to form new collaborations and work on exciting projects.  I also enjoy the opportunity to work with undergraduate and graduate students in both teaching and research mentoring.

Who is an influential woman in your life that gives you inspiration? Why?

Dr. Mary Leigh Wolfe was my teaching mentor when I was a graduate student at Virginia Tech, and she had a great influence on my career.  She was willing to essentially turn over her class to me for part of the semester, and from that opportunity I first began to develop confidence in the classroom.  I am inspired by her because she was the first female to be recognized as a Fellow by ASABE, and she followed that amazing accomplishment by becoming president of ASABE a few years later.

What is your favorite part of your job? 

I really enjoy the variety in my job – I have the opportunity to work on really challenging research problems and then bring that experience to the classroom.  Also, I very much value the positive and collegial work environment in ABE.

What advice can you give young women in your field?

Find a mentor you can trust.  And I can say that as a faculty member it is really important to find the right group of collaborators – peers who have complementary expertise but bring very different perspectives to projects.

Shweta Chopra
Assistant Professor
Biological and Process Engineering and Technology & Advanced Machinery Engineering and Manufacturing Systems

What is your greatest professional accomplishment?

I am most proud of getting my PhD. I am also proud of being the first woman in my family to actually get a four-year degree. Getting my PhD allowed me to achieve a dream I did not know was possible.

Why do you like being a faculty member at Iowa State?

Being a faculty member at Iowa State allows me to follow my passion for research and teaching.

Who is an influential woman in your life that gives you inspiration? Why?

I am inspired by Savitri Bai Phule. She was the first feminist in modern India. She laid emphasis on education for women and fought for caste system and evil sati pratha.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I enjoy being able to interact with students and learn about their dreams.

What advice can you give young women in your field?

Never be afraid to dream big.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *