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Women @ Energy: Elaine McCluskey

March 18, 2013 - 11:47am


Elaine McCluskey has worked as a civil /structural engineer and project manager for thirty-five years.

Elaine McCluskey has worked as a civil /structural engineer and project manager for thirty-five years.

Elaine McCluskey has worked as a civil /structural engineer and project manager for thirty-five years.  Her experience at Fermilab in the last 27 years has included work in the Facilities Engineering Services Section in project and line management roles, as well as project management roles in the Accelerator Division and the LBNE Project.  Currently she is the project manager for the $867M Long-Baseline Neutrino Experiment Project. She served as Project Manager for the $18M WH Safety Improvements Project and as Construction Manager for the $20M NuMI/MINOS Service Buildings & Outfitting Subproject.  She worked in the NOvA Project office as Configuration and Change Manager, as well as Deputy Manager for the NOvA/ANU Subproject.  She was Deputy Manager for development of the FRA Earned Value Management System, and worked with the senior management team on the early planning for Project X.  She holds a B.A. in Physics from Carleton College and B.S. in Civil Engineering from Washington University, as well as the Master of Project Management from DeVry University Keller Graduate School of Management.  She is a registered Professional Engineer and Structural Engineer in Illinois and a certified Project Management Professional.

1)  What inspired you to work in STEM?

I always enjoyed science and math up through high school and enjoyed making things, so my father (an electrical engineer) suggested that I might enjoy engineering. Although I initially thought I would like to pursue astrophysics, I was inspired to study civil/structural engineering when I lived next to a building construction project on my college campus. I have realized I get satisfaction from helping to create projects that help others. As an engineer I have been fortunate to work on school and hospital projects as well as science projects. Although my current work is not directly in the civil/structural discipline, I apply the engineering, organizational, and leadership skills developed in my training and earlier career to the project management I do today at Fermilab.

2)  What excites you about your work at the Energy Department?

At Fermilab I am part of a team developing a future neutrino experiment, which involves working with many types of people, including scientists and engineers. I get excited when we are able to work together to design and build equipment and facilities that can enable research into fundamental questions such as why is there more matter than anti-matter in the universe. Since this is a long-term experiment, I know that we are literally enabling basic research for future generations.

3)      How can our country engage more women, girls, and other underrepresented groups in STEM?

By putting a face on the people who are part of STEM activities, and by getting that word out in a variety of settings, girls can see that this career path is possible future for them. If girls don’t know the possibility exists, they can’t pursue it. One way to do this is by visiting schools, scout groups, science fairs, and other places where young people can engage one-on-one with women in STEM.

4) Do you have tips you'd recommend for someone looking to enter your field of work?

To work in engineering and to manage projects, both technical and “people” skills are necessary. So while taking courses in math, science, and technology classes is clearly important, good writing and verbal skills as well as an interest in working with people are also critical. Much of the work we do is writing for, presenting to, and collaborating with a variety of people. Very little work in STEM is done in isolation. You also need to be flexible and interested in finding out how the world works and in solving problems.

5)  When you have free time, what are your hobbies?

I enjoy gardening, bicycling, hiking, camping, and traveling to visit historic and natural sites.  I am also an active church member and spend time each year in domestic or international mission work.