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"I was attracted to Mechanical Engineering because of its versatility," says Brittney Theis. "It encompasses everything from sustainable energy to state-of-the-art materials to designing anything with moving parts, and engineers are great problem solvers.

"Being a female never hindered my desire to enter a 90% male field. The women in my family never held the typical female professions. My grandmother, a former air craft mechanic, and my mother greatly supported me in my decision."

Another woman who has consistently supported Brittney, "one of the best Engineering professors," is Dr. Simone Peterson-Hruda. "She really cares about making learning a stress-free experience, and was the first to tell me about sustainable energy, pointing me to the Sustainable Energy Science and Engineering Center.

"It is my opinion that people are not maliciously wasteful, just unaware of how their actions can easily affect the community. But awareness and research into sustainability have grown exponentially in the last few years, as evidenced by the recent Campus and Community Sustainability Conference hosted by Florida State and the Council for a Sustainable Florida, for which 'Noles for a Sustainable World (NSW) provided volunteers.

"To encompass broader concerns and the general population, I helped transform Engineers for a Sustainable World into NSW. It made sense because sustainability is not just a concern of engineers or any one group; it is the concern of everyone. Universities are the place for sustainability to take root so that those who will be responsible for maintaining society will realize its importance and efficiency.

"This past summer I volunteered at the Sustainable Energy Science and Engineering Center (in the Fluid Mechanics Laboratory) to learn more about sustainable energy practices and research going on at Florida State. The Off Grid Zero Emissions Building Project was the most interesting—it allows for a great deal of revolutionary energy research in solar, solar-thermal, hydrogen, and fuel cell technologies.

"I serve as treasurer for the professional and student organization FAMU/FSU Engineers without Borders, which works to benefit third-world countries. International projects require a great deal of time for design and fundraising, as well as the involvement of a number of people, not just engineers. Right now we are working to provide a more efficient well pump for a village in Peru."

After graduation in spring 2009, Brittney plans to attend graduate school for a master's in Mechanical Engineering. Then, she says, "I will work to advance research on sustainable energy and to make existing technologies more efficient and sustainable."

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