Monica Cortez Allain
’97, Aerospace Engineering
Monica Cortez Allain’s impressive career and personal story is an inspiration.
As a single mother, she studied aerospace engineering at Cal Poly Pomona and graduated with honors. Cal Poly Pomona’s Maximizing Engineering Potential (MEP) program, an academic enhancement program, gave Allain the boost that helped launch her career.
Designed to support underrepresented minorities studying engineering and computer science, the program offers study centers, academic workshops and orientation courses, as well as valuable academic advising. As an undergraduate, Allain connected with Aerospace Engineering Professor Gabriel Georgiades whom she says profoundly influenced her studies and urged her toward career achievement.
“The MEP program helped turn my academic dreams into reality,” she says. “The director, Kay Hudspeth, and my academic mentor, Gabriel Georgiades, deserve a lot of credit.”
After receiving her bachelor’s degree from Cal Poly Pomona in 1997, Allain continued her education at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where she received her master’s and doctoral degrees in nuclear engineering.
Allain is now the managing director of the Birck Nanotechnology Center at Purdue University. One of the most advanced facilities of its kind, Birck supports multidisciplinary nanotechnology research that has implications for computing, communications, the environment, security, energy independence and health.
Allain manages the research facility’s multimillion-dollar budget and assists faculty in securing large grants. She also coordinates sponsored programs among Birck faculty and other academic institutions, government laboratories and industry partners. The relationships she develops with private industry facilitate translational research — from nanoscience to nanotechnology with real-world applications.
It was Allain’s parents who initially motivated her to pursue and complete her education. Her father’s work as an engineer for Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works team piqued her interest in airplanes and science. Her mother, who returned to school later in life while battling breast cancer, fortified a sense of determination that Allain still relies on today.
Understanding the challenges and rewards of higher education, Allain is an advisor to future engineers. She is a faculty fellow in the Earhart residential program at Purdue, which provides a social network and study group for more than 100 first-year female engineering students. She also serves as the faculty advisor for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and has worked with the College of Engineering’s recruitment office and the Minority Engineering Program, which focuses on the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students.
Prior to becoming the managing director at Birck, Allain was the associate director of undergraduate education in the College of Engineering at Purdue University. She developed and directed two Women in Engineering outreach programs designed to introduce the field to elementary and middle schoolers. Through these programs, students engaged in hands-on activities, explored Purdue’s innovative design laboratories and connected with faculty through class lectures.
Earlier in her career, Allain was a post-doctoral researcher, performing experiments on the advanced photon source at Argonne National Laboratory through a collaborative research project involving Intel, Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Illinois. After a year of post-doctoral research, she became the lead materials engineer at Exelon Nuclear for the integrated surveillance program. She has been published in several scientific journals and has received several academic and service awards.
Allain tells current and aspiring engineering students to hold fast to their dreams. “Be very meticulous about the math and the details. Remain focused and never give up.”
Copyright © 2009 Cal Poly Pomona.
All rights reserved.