By Indiana State University
Apr 3, 2019
Kristina Lawyer knew she hit the jackpot when she found a way to pair her love of drag racing with a career in engineering. It’s an added bonus that her position as an assistant professor of automotive engineering technology and mechanical engineering technology at Indiana State University also allows her to encourage young women to enter science-related fields.
Lawyer, who has been on the College of Technology faculty for more than five years, specializes in alcohol fuel blends in SIDI engines, systems modeling, specifically vehicle modeling with Simulink and engineering education.
While she hopes students soak up all of the technological knowledge she provides, she also hopes the mostly juniors and seniors who go through her classroom learn from her honesty about her own experiences – including not knowing what she wanted to do with her life at age 18 and nearly failing out of college.
“It helps students to realize it’s not just them and also breaks down faculty-student walls,” she said. “I talk with my students a lot about what they can do and assure them that they will push through. When I look back, I know a lot of maturing happened in those last years of college and I hope I help students see that they can get through the grit, too.”
Lawyer knows a thing or two about grit. A 2008 graduate of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, Lawyer decided to focus on research post-graduation and enrolled at Michigan Technological University for both her master’s degree and PhD in mechanical engineering. As part of her PhD research, she operated an engine dynamometer and emissions measurement equipment while working at Argonne National Lab in Chicago.
“I went into engineering because someone told me I was good at math and science, and I grew up in a family that was into drag racing and I had been working with technology to make cars go faster most of my life,” she said. “But I fully admit that when enrolled at Rose I didn’t completely understand what engineering was but it turned out that it fit well.”
Thanks to her professors, Lawyer got through the early funk of college and was even inspired to go into academia. She expected to work in industry right after college, but decided to pursue teaching when a position opened at State. Lawyer now teaches automotive engineering technology, mechanical engineering technology, as well as courses for the new engineering program.
A strong advocate for women in technology, Lawyer is an alumna of and current chapter advisor for Alpha Omicron Pi Women’s Fraternity at Rose-Hulman. She serves as faculty advisor for State’s Females in Technology student organization and the Shell Eco-Marathon team. And she also loves cats – and owns six.
“I’ve been so lucky to be in communities where being a woman in a male-dominated field was encouraged,” Lawyer said. “Being a woman has never hindered me in engineering. Maybe it was because growing up I was into racing, which is also male-dominated. It was just what I did and my mom was and still is a car person, too,” she said. “Even at Rose, there were a decent number of women. It wasn’t until later that people asked me about being a female in engineering. Knowing that now, though, as FiT advisor I make it a point to bring girls to campus, to talk to them about engineering careers. I want them to see all of the opportunities there are for them in engineering.”