As part of our alumni professor feature series, Alma Mudders, we interviewed HMC engineering professor Liz Orwin ’95.
Professor Orwin, whom most of us know as the professor of engineering who specializes in biomedical engineering, is actually a Mudd alumna who has brought her passion for engineering back to her alma mater.
She came to Mudd as a physics major who also considered chemistry, math, and biology. Ultimately, the course “Introduction to Systems Engineering” persuaded her to pursue engineering. She said: “What I love about it is the big-picture approach to looking at systems, so no matter what kind of system it is, the analysis is the same. There was a lot of math in the class, and I love the framework of the course. That was the course that got me to be an engineer.” This idea of science in the bigger world context was what attracted Prof. Orwin to Mudd in the first place.
Actively participating in extracurriculars activities such as concert choir and ASHMC and taking on leadership roles was no small task in college, especially at Mudd. Prof. Orwin explained that these activities actually helped her become more productive since she had to manage her time carefully.
Although Prof. Orwin was busy with the workload here at Mudd, she didn’t miss out on the prank culture: she helped prank Dean Jeanne, who was the Dean of Students at the time, on the dean’s first day of work by taking everything out of her office, laying plastic sod, then putting everything back to exactly where it was. Yet, one of her most memorable adventures was a camping trip at Zion National Park in Utah with a group of friends. The trip was nothing short of surprises: part of their groupi ran out of gas out in the desert and they ran out of food.
After many years, Professor Orwin came back as a professor. She said: “I wanted to teach at a place where teaching is valued and where you have the chance to innovate, to optimize student learning.” The biggest change she noticed at Mudd is the smaller gender gap. At the time she was attending Mudd, there were 20% women and very few female technical faculty members, with no female engineering faculty. However, the campus now feels more “normal” – a reflection of the society’s gender ratio.
Looking back, she said that she took every opportunity to learn as a student at Mudd. Her advice to current Mudd students is to “use the four years to figure out who you are and try things and give yourself the permission to not be perfect.”