Women In STEM Series – Meet Dr. Amanda Furness
Meet Dr. Amanda Furness! She is a professor here at CCU teaching mostly General Chemistry I&II. She also teaches Statistics, Chemistry for Engineers, Integrated Physical Science with Lab for non-science majors, Math for Liberal Arts, and College Algebra.
Growing up, she loved school and her favorite subject was math.
The two people who inspired her is her to pursue the field of Chemistry was her cousin and her AP Chemistry teacher. Her cousin who is a Chemist at Eli Lilly was talking about his job during Thanksgiving dinner using a really cool analogy of chocolate chip cookies. He talked about making sure that there was not too much flour, or baking soda, or too little chocolate chips which fascinated Dr. Furness. She was going to do Food Science or Food Chemistry to develop the next best flavor at the age of 12.
Her biggest inspiration was Ms. Reed, her AP Chemistry teacher. Ms. Reed was so smart and did a great job explaining concepts to her students along with her passion for Chemistry is a huge inspiration as to why Dr. Furness does Chemistry.
According to Dr. Furness being a Woman in STEM is hard. Looking at the School of Science and Engineering faculty most of the faculty are female which is an enigma. Outside of CCU, this does not happen as much in other schools or workforces. Dr. Furness’ mother was a strong woman and encouraged Dr. Furness to do what she loved. She mentioned that during graduate school, 4 out of 22 of her class was a woman. Dr. Furness feels as though there are a lot more women who are encouraged to go into STEM, but there is still a gap between the higher-level degrees.
Her favorite thing about STEM is this statistic that states, “science is 95% failure but 5% success”.
It is not a very encouraging statistic, but the five percent is so rewarding and interesting since we are trying to learn things that nobody has discovered yet. You have to have the guts to survive the 95% of failures, but when you get the 5% percent success it makes the failures worth it.
A quote from Albert Einstein says, “The more I study science, the more I believe in God”. Dr. Furness mentioned that the more we are able to understand science, we will always find ourselves asking an additional five questions. Science is like an endless field, the most exciting thing about science is that even though we are finding more pieces, we also getting more questions. Science and faith tend to not get along. She goes back to the quote from Einstein which allows her to see that the more she studies within her field, she knows that there is no way that everything happened by accident so perfectly without God’s intervention. She takes the time to debunk the myths that some of her students might have within science and faith relating to each other. She mentioned that science further proves her faith.
The biggest challenge that Dr. Furness has had to overcome is the fact that not many people respect her as a woman even though she has a Ph.D.
It is sometimes hard when opinions are dismissed or not taken seriously when she adds her input. Thankfully, it does not happen as much at CCU, but it did happen during her research experience. Additionally, sometimes students do not put too much emphasis on her Doctorate degree like they would with a male professor.
Dr. Furness’ favorite thing about teaching at CCU is the students. She went to a similar size undergraduate university, so she knew that she wanted to teach at a similar institution. She knows all of her students, their name, if they are present in class even if her students may hate that. CCU is truly a caring community, and she believes that the professors truly care for their students. She also wants her students to let her know when they do not understand because she cares and wants them to understand what they are learning. Dr. Furness mentioned that when she went to the University of Kansas, she was a TA for a Chemistry class of 800 students which the professor probably did not know a single person’s name let alone everyone in the class.
Some advice she would give to others is to never quit. Any student can be defeated by failure like one quiz, one test, or even one course can deter them from pursuing a certain career. Also, we should not let outside pressures defer us from completing our degree which is what Dr. Furness’ mom encouraged her to do. Her mother made sure that Dr. Furness knew that she is getting her degree for herself not for anyone else. This is why she will never regret getting her degree.
One of the coolest things that Dr. Furness has done was during her graduate school where she studied the neurochemical effects of epilepsy.
She was looking at what was happening in the brain before, during, and after a seizure. This was pretty cool that even though she was studying Chemistry, she was doing Bioanalytical Chemistry. A lot of people think that Chemist are working the lab mixing chemicals, but you can do Chemistry and other fields. This is gruesome but she did perform surgery on rats’ brain for her study so she used to call herself a brain surgeon which was fun for her to do.
One thing she wants others to know about her is that she does not want people to be intimidated to talk to her. She is always interested in getting to meet and get to know new people and she is willing to share her own story!