Mixer connects grad students and alumni

A panel on leadership was moderated by Greg Olsen (left) and included Ralph Taylor-Smith, Mary Fernández, and Chris Petersen (not shown). “The secret I’ve found for any leadership I’ve been able to achieve has just been determination—don’t give up,” Olsen said.

From general advice on overcoming life’s obstacles to new directions in environmental careers, graduate alumni of Princeton Engineering offered guidance to current graduate students at an event April 14.

“My job at this point is all about communication,” said Mary Fernández, a principal technical staff member at ATT Labs. “My advice is: Learn to communicate about your science and technology and it will help you throughout your career.”

Fernández, who received her Ph.D. in computer science from Princeton in 1994, was a member of a panel discussion on leadership. She was joined by moderator Greg Olsen, the school of engineering’s entrepreneur in residence; Ralph Taylor-Smith *94, general partner of the investment firm Battelle Ventures; and Chris Petersen *91, vice president of LightLab Imaging.


Kathryn Caballero, who holds a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Princeton, described her path from working as a scientist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to becoming a staff attorney for the agency. “I knew there was something more I wanted to do,” she said. At right are Asa Rennermalm and Carlos Coe.

A second alumni panel addressed career paths in energy and the environment. The panel, moderated by Michael Celia *83, chair of civil and environmental engineering at Princeton, included: Kathryn Caballero *93, an attorney with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Carlos Coe *85, president and chief executive officer of Xtreme Power Solutions; and Asa Rennermalm *08, assistant professor of geography at Rutgers University. 

Coe, who founded Xtreme Power in 2004 to increase efficiency in the electricity industry, said graduate students in environmental fields face good job prospects. “We had the industrial revolution, the information revolution and now we are in the energy revolution,” Coe said. “I think you will find that this revolution will require a lot of talented people.”

Graduate students Yaping Zhu and Raghuveer Vinukollu, who organized the event for the Graduate Engineering Council, said it was helpful for current students to hear from graduates in industry because most of their interactions are with academics.

Vinukollu said he was particularly struck by Coe’s admonition for graduates not to limit their career choices to the field of their Ph.D. work. “We are trained to go out in the world and solve any problem,” said Vinukollu, whose research is in environmental engineering. “I am an engineer and I can work on any problem if I have the time to study it.” –SS