STEMM Idol: Emily Heckman '97

“Profound joy of the heart is like a magnet that indicates the path of life.”  - Mother Teresa

That message was what Emily Laubacher Heckman '97, Senior Electronics Research Engineer at Wright Patt Air Force Base's Air Force Research Laboratory conveyed to students when she spoke to them as part of the STEMM Idol Speaker Series on November 15.

"I wanted to stress work-life balance," Heckman explained. "I have three young kids but I still feel like I have a meaningful career.

"You can make your life what you want of it," Heckman continued. "There are twists and turns so if you're not on the right path, you have to jump ship and correct it yourself, no one is going to do that for you."

After CJ, Heckman received a BS in Physics and Math from the University of Dayton. She earned her MS in Physics from the University of Michigan in 2002 and a PhD in Electro-Optics from the University of Dayton in 2006. She explained that while she had other opportunities after graduating from CJ, she eventually chose to stay in Dayton because of her now husband, Alex '97.

"It's called the two-body problem where you try and find jobs for two people," Heckman explained. "There are not many opportunities for his line of work (history, specifically Dayton history) and I didn't want to be a part from him."

Heckman also stressed to students that while she is in the science field now, she did not have a strong passion for science in high school.

"I feel like in high school this wasn't on my radar screen," Heckman said. "I didn't participate in science fairs, I didn't take any honor science classes and I ended up in one of the hardest scientific fields - physics - and I have excelled."

Heckman specially leads a program for the Air Force in printed electronics. The lab which she oversees has more than $2 million worth of equipment in it.

"Printed electronics didn't exist when I was in school," Heckman shared. "I'm considered an expert in my field and I didn't take any classes in printed electronics.  

Heckman continued, "As scientists, we have to completely relearn our field constantly because of technology. It's evolving rapidly and the Air Force is trying to capture that."

Posted November 21, 2016