Spotlight on Engineering Alumni: Elizabeth Hill

Name: Elizabeth Hill
Age: 31
Occupation: Chemical Engineer
Education (UR and additional): B.S. in Chemical Engineering, University of Rochester, 2003; PhD in Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, 2007
Current city/state of residence: Eden Prairie, MN
Family:  My husband, Frank and I enjoy hiking and canoeing northern MN with our one year old daughter Lena Rose.  We spend time reading and enjoy the company of our two dogs, and cat.
Community activities:  Pax Christi, SWE, AIChE


Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

The University of Rochester gave me a Bausch and Lomb Award in my senior year of high school which sparked my interest.  I recall U of R being “not too big,” but still having a wide range of majors that interested me.   In my case, the generous financial aid package and low interest loan options were also the most financially prudent choice, even as compared to the SUNY system.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

As a student I played softball for the University of Rochester and was a member of SWE, AICHE and the Newman Community. Lisa Norwood, Assistant Dean of the Hajim School of Engineering, was a SWE faculty leader at the time, and helped me understand the value of a professional network. I also loved the peace and calm at Newman services led by Father Cool and Sister Kathleen. All of these organizations showed me the joy of spending time in service to my community.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

I am both a mom and an improvement engineer working on sustainable water and process solutions for the Dow Chemical Company. I enjoy a good challenge and I’d say that’s what led me to this “dual career”.

How do you balance your work and personal life?

Balance truly is an illusion; however, there are choices I have made that allow me to lead both a rich personal and rewarding professional life. Taking time to evaluate and articulate my core values (faithfulness, family, determination, and trust) has helped me.  As example, my values lead my family to sacrifice a bigger home, nicer car, and limit our vacations to trips to see family once our daughter was born. We choose to live off of one income so my husband can stay home with her. Likewise, if something is outside of my control at work (or home), but does not conflict with my personal values, then I try not to worry it. As I reflect on this now, I’m quite happy with my choices thus far, but I also recall how hard they were in the moment – have kids right away, or finish my PhD? I waited; take the job that is closer to family, or take the job that has a higher earning potential? I chose family. There are other choices I can anticipate on the horizon – pursue an expatriate assignment or stay in the US?  Thinking ahead of time, makes it a lot easier in the moment when the choice becomes a tangible option and also allows my values to guide my choices.

What advice do you have for current students?

Be flexible because life changes fast. Anyone who’s received Dr. Amy Lerner’s (Department of Biomedical Engineering) tips on obtaining an internship knows that is the first thing to do, and the second, and then be flexible some more.  Additionally, to guys and girls alike – check out writings on “’The Imposter Syndrome.” It was an enlightening moment the day I learned of this phenomena as well as an empowering one. I’d also encourage all students to become fluent in the business case for diversity because studies (www.catalyst.org) show this a fiscally rewarding endeavor that cannot be undertaken without support from all.