Evelyn Wang encourages her students to pursue their passions outside of work as an important part of maintaining good mental health in graduate school. One student recalls Wang encouraging them to continue practicing piano and even attending recitals. This is an instance of encouraging work/life balance, a Mentoring Guidepost identified by the C2C program.
Wang is the Gail E. Kendall Professor and Department Head in the Mechanical Engineering Department as well as the Director of the Device Research Laboratory (DRL) at MIT. Wang received her S.B. from MIT, and M.S. and Ph.D. from Stanford University in mechanical engineering. Her research interests include fundamental studies of micro/nanoscale heat and mass transport and the development of efficient thermal management, solar thermal energy conversion, and water harvesting systems.
Getting and giving great advice
In graduate school, Wang learned from two incredible mentors of her own: Professors Tom Kenny and Ken Goodson (Stanford University). “They really cared about my success and provided me encouragement when I needed it most,” she says, crediting their support in helping her persevere and successfully navigate the graduate experience. Ultimately, it was their support that inspired her to pursue an academic career.
To pass on her wisdom, Wang regularly speaks to the MIT Mechanical Engineering Graduate Women Association (MEGA Women) and the MIT Women’s Technology Program. She also participates in the Path of Professorship Workshop every year, where she gives advice to graduate women on topics including the academic job search and life as a junior faculty member.
When asked what advice she would give to incoming graduate students at MIT, Wang says to network with faculty beyond your immediate advisor. Varying faculty perspectives on research and life can help students develop their own unique path.
Wang is committed to being present for her advisees, even in a crunch. One nominator recalls that Wang supported their decision to apply for a conference on the day of the deadline after their experiment had only just yielded results that afternoon. “After I showed Prof. Wang my results and expressed that I wanted to go for it, she decided to stay late to help me revise the abstract.” The next day, Wang gave the student positive and encouraging feedback. “One conference paper probably doesn’t matter too much to her, but she knew what it meant for me and so helped me realize this goal.”
When they were facing short notice for an interview, another graduate student says that Wang nevertheless carved out some time over the weekend to meet. They practiced the presentation and went over the slides together for over three hours. “She gave me excellent advice that day which ultimately led to a successful interview and significantly helped with my professional development.” According to her students, Evelyn Wang “makes it a priority to connect with the members of her group” and in doing so promotes their professional development and maintains a friendly and encouraging work environment. Wang says, “I treat my group as a family, and we all do our best to support each other through successes and failures.”