Ilka Rodriguez-Calero

Ph.D. Candidate, University of Michigan

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Embrace the things that make you, you!

What do you do?

I study how designers and engineers do their work, specifically the tools and processes they use early in a design process to gather feedback, communicate, and collaborate with the people impacted by the design outcomes.

Why did you choose this field?

I was interested in solving problems, especially problems that could have an impact in health and quality of life. I pursued mechanical engineering as an undergrad thinking that would be the path towards being a product design engineer. The professional opportunities I had at the time were aligned with that path, but I realized that in my field there seemed to be few opportunities to work on problems where I could connect and interact with people outside of my teams. I was doing undergraduate research in design processes with an industrial engineering professor and I learned about the field of human factors and ergonomics. Around that time, I was also introduced to human-centered design in my year-long senior design project. I felt like I was just getting started on something I was really enjoying, so I decided to pursue graduate studies to gain a deeper interdisciplinary understanding of design.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

Writing my first first-author paper and submitting it to an interdisciplinary design journal.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love that STEM has provided me a lens to explore and understand the world around me, and that the lens is complementary with many other lenses and perspectives. I love the collaboration aspect of these fields, recognizing that solutions to the world's biggest challenges will not emerge from just one place, person, or discipline, but from the contributions and integration of many ideas and perspectives.

Best advice for next generation?

Embrace the things that make you, YOU! Don't let the rules and boxes built by others define you, the world needs your unique perspective!

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

“I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.” - Maya Angelou

NOMINATE a woman in STEM

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