WYOMISSING, Pa. — While a major in electro-mechanical engineering technology with a minor in civic and community engagement may seem like an unusual combination to some, it was the perfect fit for Lisa Panczner. She received her degree during Penn State Berks’ commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 8.
Panczner took advantage of every opportunity that Penn State has to offer from the very beginning. Before her first year of classes, she enrolled in the Engineering Ahead program, a four-week summer “bridge” program to enhance academic preparedness. Later she returned to the program as a first-year mentor to incoming students.
On campus, Panczner was a member of the college’s Society of Women Engineers student organization and the FiERCE program (Futures in Engineering: Role-models Can Empower), a volunteer initiative where engineering students work with middle school students to encourage an interest in STEM. In addition, she served as a resident hall assistant.
Panczner worked as a research assistant in the college’s Fluid Discovery Lab. There, she assisted Azar Eslam-Panah, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, on her research studying the fluid dynamics of a flapping-wing mechanism to understand how the wings move in turbulence. As a result, she was included as a contributor to Eslam-Panah’s research articles, published by the American Physical Society, Division of Fluid Dynamics and the Physical Review Fluids Journal. She was also selected to participate in Penn State’s Research Experience for Undergraduates, where she presented her work at the University-wide conference.
During her time at Penn State Berks, Panczner completed two summer internships with Exelon, a Fortune 100 company that works in every stage of the energy business: power generation, competitive energy sales, transmission and delivery. There, Panczner was assigned projects, gained hands-on experience and worked with a chemical engineer.
When she wasn’t in the classroom, Panczner found time to volunteer. She participated in two of the college’s Alternative Spring Breaks: one to Puerto Rico where she was part of a group of students who spent a week working on a mangrove reforestation project, and one to Jamaica, where she was part of a group that tutored and worked with children.
She also worked as a volunteer when the college hosted the FIRST LEGO League competitions, where teams (grades four to eight) research a real-world problem and develop a solution. They must also design, build and program a robot using LEGO MINDSTORMS, and then compete on a tabletop playing field.
Panczner, of Springfield, Pennsylvania, said she comes from a “Penn State family” so choosing a college was not an issue, and she found that Penn State Berks was the perfect fit. She explained that she wanted to be far enough from home that she did not have to commute, and she also wanted the full campus experience. She found both at Penn State Berks.
“And Penn State Berks is the most beautiful campus,” she proudly added.
When asked how Penn State Berks has prepared her for the future, Panczner said, “I feel very prepared. The networking and community-building experiences I have had, working with others in unique ways, has prepared me to succeed in what I want to do.”
What does Panczner want to do? Her experiences working with the Engineering Ahead program, the FiERCE program and the FIRST LEGO League have sparked an interest in teaching STEM subjects, she said. She plans to earn her teaching certificate and pursue her dream of educating the next generation — coming full circle.