During an engineering and biochemistry career that spanned the 1970s into the 2010s, Gay Breidinger (BS ’71) was usually the only woman in the room. She eventually became accustomed to it, but it never sat right with her. “There’s absolutely no reason why women shouldn’t or can’t excel in the world of science,” she said.
So Breidinger is doing something about it, with a fellowship gift to U-M that will provide financial support to aspiring female scientists as well as materials science and engineering graduate students. A Michigan education opened a lifetime of opportunity to both Breidinger and her father, Owen, and she hopes her gift will enable others to benefit from similar opportunities.
“Dad and I always used to talk about how wonderful it was to come to U-M and meet people from all over the world,” she said. “It just changed everything for me. It opened my eyes, my heart and my point of view about how wonderful differences are in people and how accepting we should be.”
A portion of her gift, in honor of her father, will support the recruitment of top graduate students in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. In the 1960s, Owen Breidinger (BSE MetE ’51) helped develop the propulsion system used on the first lunar rover, and materials science and engineering department chair Amit Misra says the gift in his honor will fuel similarly groundbreaking discoveries in the future.
“Our vision as materials scientists and engineers is to solve the most pressing challenges facing our planet, and our aim as a department is to be the preeminent materials program in the country,” he said. “Gifts that support recruitment of a diverse pool of graduate students are perfectly positioned to help us achieve our vision.”
Misra is also the Edward DeMille Campbell Collegiate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering.