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Why Engineering? Jean Phuong Pham Shares Her Perspective

In celebration of gender parity within the School of Engineering, Laura Ferguson and Tufts Now look into Tufts University’s diverse and inclusive campus culture.
“To young women considering engineering, I would say this—engineering is really about following your curiosity,” said Jean Phuong Pham. Photo: Alonso Nichols

With the arrival of the Class of 2023 this August, the School of Engineering reached a celebratory milestone. Women, for the first time in the school’s 130-year history, account for 50 percent of the freshman class. In celebration of this key moment of gender parity, Laura Ferguson and Tufts Now looked into the diverse and inclusive campus culture here at Tufts, asking 5 up-and-coming women engineers to share their personal stories - including Jean Phuong Pham, a current student in the Dual Degree program, pursuing her MS in Innovation & Management and MS in Human Factors Engineering.

The following is an excerpt from the Tufts Now spotlight on Jean:


Jean Phuong Pham, a 2017 College of Wooster graduate, is pursuing a dual master’s degree in human factors engineering and, through Tufts Gordon Institute, innovation management. Both channel her passion for social impact, as does VietChallenge, the nonprofit accelerator she co-led with Mai Phan Zymaris, F11, to fund Vietnamese-founded startups that aim to better society and the planet. “Entrepreneurship to me is not only about starting a business that creates jobs for people,” said Pham, the nonprofit’s chief operating officer, “but also about giving people the tools and skills they need to rise out of poverty.” Pham and her team Cellens won first place in the Montle Prize Competition for Entrepreneurial Achievement held November 15 at Tufts. Her team received $7,500 from the Tufts Entrepreneurship Center to help kick-start their research and business development of a noninvasive cancer detection test. She is participating in the Tufts $100k New Ventures Competition where teams compete for prizes and in-kind services totaling more than $100,000.

"Engineering to me means problem-solving. Engineers see a problem and then build something that could solve that problem, through a new product or by inventing a whole new way of doing things. I may come from a liberal arts background, but I tend to think like an engineer when I want to analyze a problem. I am very data-driven — I always want to know: Can I quantify my impact? That is how I will define success.

I also want to help people have the opportunity for an education, either through programs that help them out of poverty, or by investing in new technologies and businesses that have the potential to create social impact.

I came to Tufts because I wanted to build a meaningful business with people who share my values, and because I wanted to leverage the really great resources found at a research university that brings engineers and liberal arts students together. It creates such a playing field for entrepreneurs and for engineers who want to take their product into the market. It empowers us to take a very interdisciplinary approach. It’s like a powerful tool kit that will help me assemble new solutions.

To young women considering engineering, I would say this: Engineering is really about following your curiosity. It’s a path that will help you answer the questions that you’ve been wanting to answer for so long. If that is the path you want, then go for it."


Read the full Tufts Now article here.