Antonia Rivera (4th Quarter, 2006)

by Josh Barsch on August 20, 2010

4th Quarter, 2006
Engineering Scholarship Winner
Antonia Rivera

“My hometown is Milwaukee, WI. I received my BS degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I am still at UW-Madison now pursuing my PhD in Industrial and Systems Engineering with an emphasis in Human Factors and Safety. My research instrests are currently specific to patient safety.

This is my first year of grad school, but as I continue on in my graduate career, I have three goals I want to accomplish before I gruaduate: 1) Learn how to conduct a quality research study; 2) Improve on communicating my findings through presentations, journals and teaching; and 3) Be a good role model to young women!”

A Portion of Antonia’s Winning Essay:

Antonia Rivera

Antonia Rivera

In high school I excelled in both math and science and found that solving challenging homework problems was fun and rewarding. Since I enjoyed math and science so much, my junior year I started tutoring my peers in algebra and physics. I received compliments on my teaching techniques and saw drastic improvements in my tutees’ grades. Like solving homework problems, tutoring was very gratifying. During my senior year of high school I tutored more than twenty of my classmates. These experiences lead to my three academic passions: math, science and teaching.

My love for math and science steered me towards a degree in Engineering. After learning about each Engineering degree offered at UW-Madison, I chose Industrial Engineering because it used math and science to solve complex system problems that involved people and technology. Looking back at my undergraduate career, there are several classes that stand out because of the effect they had on me and my way of thinking.

My first two years of college I concentrated on learning the tools I would need for a successful career in industry. As my second semester of my junior year approached I was still on an industry career path, until I took Statistics. In this class, I understood the material faster and better then some of my classmates and again I took on the role of a tutor. Several nights a week, I would break down the information taught in class and develop comprehensive worksheets that helped my classmates better understand the material.


The next year, I took three courses that would set the tone for the rest of my undergraduate career path: Introduction to Human Factors Engineering, Occupational Safety and Health Engineering, and Occupational Ergonomics and Biomechanics. These courses made me realize that as an Industrial Engineer I could make a significant impact on workers’ safety, health and well-being. This made me very excited. I knew that I could put my passion for math and science into good use. At that point I decided to continue my education with a one year Professional Master’s Program in Industrial Engineering with special emphasis in Human Factors and Safety.

In my final semester of my undergraduate career I received special permission to enroll in a graduate seminar: Multi-Level Ergonomics. The theoretical concepts discussed in class transformed my way of thinking. Though I was only one of two undergrads in the class, I was surprised by how quickly I was able to grasp the material and give my own opinion on the subject matter. Like the challenging homework problems, participating in class was very rewarding. Each week I looked forward to class, and I did not want the semester to end. I realized then that a Professional Master’s Program would not satisfy me. This course had given me a peek into graduate school and I only wanted to see more.
After discussing my options with several professors I realized I had been quite naive about the different career paths an engineer could have. If I were to pursue a career in academia I could focus on the topics I am interested in within Industrial Engineering, Human Factors and Safety and use my math and science skills to eventually fulfill my desire to teach.

A career in academia could not be a better fit for what I would like to accomplish in my lifetime. I have always enjoyed learning and teaching others. In graduate school there are endless opportunities to continue learning, i.e., classes, research, and internships, and infinite chances to become involved in teaching, i.e., teaching assistantships, tutoring programs, and eventually becoming a professor.

As I begin my graduate career I have several objectives I would like to focus on: learn as much as possible, enhance my research abilities, perfect my teaching skills and give back to the community. The StraightForward Media Engineering School Scholarship will help me satisfy those objectives and in turn, help me become a well-rounded person and a successful professor.

As an undergrad my grade point average in Industrial Engineering was 3.8/4.0. I took a wide range of courses to prepare me for graduate school. The courses that were most beneficial were those in the subject of quantitative science and human factors engineering. The classes that prepared me for quantitative data collection and analysis were: Mathematical Statistics, Simulation and Probabilistic Modeling, Operational Research-Deterministic Modeling, Data Capture Technologies: Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and Bar Code, Continuous Process Improvement and Quality Engineering. The courses that prepared and guided me to specialize in Human Factors and Safety Engineering were: Ergonomic Intervention Methods, Occupational Safety and Health Engineering, Multi-Level Ergonomics, Health Systems Engineering and Occupational Ergonomics and Biomechanics.

In graduate school, to learn as much as possible, I am taking twelve hours of courses. I am also fortunate enough to be part of a cohesive lab group that works together while performing research. As the youngest member of the lab, the other members are great resources. I can ask them about course work as well as research. Being a part of this lab will also give me the opportunity to work on research in a team setting. I am currently working with a team of physicians, nurses and engineers to analyze a database of medication errors to help determine engineering and technology solutions. Through this research I have enhanced my understanding of quantitative data collection, data cleaning and data analysis. I plan to improve my research abilities through coursework, lab members, books and hands-on experience.

To give back to the community, I plan on doing several things. First, as an undergrad I was awarded a minority scholarship and became a member of the Chancellor Scholarship Program. In this program, each scholar is provided a Mentor in a profession that closely matches his or her field of interest. I would like to give back to that program by eventually becoming a Mentor for a minority student in the field of Engineering. Second, I would like to work with the student organizations I am a member of: Institute of Industrial Engineering (IIE), Society of Hispanic Engineers (SHPE), and Health Systems Engineering Association (HSEA), to better enhance their educational outreach programs. Educational outreach is one of the hardest programs to get students interested and involved in. Each organization has great outreach ideas, however they rarely can find volunteers to make those ideas a reality. I plan on developing a program in which these organizations, and others, could work together to get students interested in volunteering for programs such as after school tutoring, engineering demonstrations and mentoring programs. If the organizations are willing to work together to form a single educational outreach program, the program could be quite strong and influence many young future scientists. As a minority myself, I think it is important to expose underrepresented students to math and science in a fun interactive way. Encouraging students to explore engineering concepts at a young age will enhance their scientific and technical understanding and give them the confidence to pursue an engineering degree in the future.”

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