Dr. Christine Luscombe is an Associate Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. She received her PhD at the University of Cambridge in Chemistry and specializes in polymer chemistry. Inspired by a high school chemistry teacher, Dr. Luscombe became interested in the study of polymers because they are found in everyday objects. She wanted to learn how polymers functioned, what their properties were, and how to create new polymers. In graduate school, Dr. Luscombe’s advisors encouraged her to pursue a career in academia. Though she became an assistant professor for the purpose of research, she developed a strong enjoyment for teaching along the way. She was attracted to the University of Washington because of its location and reputation as a leading institution in polymer research.
Dr. Luscombe is currently working to develop more cost effective solar cells made with polymers instead of expensive silicon. Her interest in solar cells stem from her concern about global warming. She believes, “People should make a serious effort to try and reduce the effect they have on the environment.”
The following are questions and responses from an interview with Dr. Luscombe about being a woman scientist and engineer.
Q&A: Being a Woman Scientists and Engineer
Q. What have you found most surprising about being a woman scientist and engineer?
A. The realization that a gender difference exists at all surprised me. I hadn’t considered it until I started this position. I used to work in a chemistry department and when I started this job, I switched to engineering. There is a larger gender difference in engineering than in chemistry. Engineering tends to attract more men than women.
Q. What challenges have you faced during your education and career because of your gender?
A. I earned my degrees in the UK and I think there is a bit more gender equality there. I began to feel the gender difference when I received my position as an assistant professor. In my department, it was also the age gap between rest of the faculty and me. When I first joined, I was very young compared to the professors so I got the feeling that they treated me like a daughter since I was basically their daughters’ age. There aren’t any blatant comments. Comments are occasionally made by the fact that I am female; comments I’m sure people wouldn’t make if I were male. Yet, it’s not all bad because I have benefitted as a female scientist.
Q. Do you have any advice for women or students who are pursuing the scientific field?
A. Don’t be scared. Don’t be put off by all the boys in the class and do what you enjoy.
Learn more about Dr. Luscombe via her lab website: http://faculty.washington.edu/luscombe/