Stephanie TerMaath is the Jessie Rogers Zeanah Faculty Fellow and an assistant professor of mechanical, aerospace, and biomedical engineering. She came to UT in 2012. Before that, she managed a physics-based computing group at Applied Research Associates and worked at Boeing Phantom Works and Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. She did her undergraduate work at Penn State University, then earned her master’s from Purdue University and her doctorate from Cornell University. All of her degrees are in civil engineering.
Why this field
TerMaath was born in Wichita Falls, Texas, on Shepard Air Force Base.
“Both my parents were in the United States Air Force, so I grew up around a lot of aircraft. I loved planes, fighters, and went to a lot of air shows. When the movie Top Gun came out, I fell in love with F-14s.”
In 2014, TerMaath received a $510,000 research grant from the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Program for her work in repairing ship hulls. As part of the Science Alliance–Liane B. Russell Fellowship Collaborative Cohort Program, she was part of an all-female team of scientists and students that researched ways to improve the quality of life for patients with brain shunts.
Advice to her college-age self
“Don’t be so obsessed with only grades. Classes are important, obviously, but take time to enjoy the other parts of college—sports, theater, concerts. Take the opportunity to participate in other activities. I wish I had done more.”
Movies, music, books
Her favorite authors are Charles Dickens and Vince Flynn. In addition to Top Gun, her top movie picks are Indiana Jones and the Harry Potter, Star Trek, and Star Wars series. “My favorite music is anything from the 1980s—hard rock, pop rock, all of it.”
Dream dinner companion
“Sushi rolls with Carl Sagan,” she said. “I went to Cornell University specifically because I wanted to take a class from him, but he died before I had the chance.”
Still on her bucket list
An avid traveler, outdoor enthusiast, and hiker, she would love to hike Mount Rainer and also visit Australia, Ireland, Scotland, Austria, Germany, and France.
Most people don’t know
She’s studied dance—including ballet, tap, jazz, and clogging—and has been in many dance performances and competitions.
“I also play ice hockey,” she said. “Many people think dance and ice hockey are an odd combination, but dance helped with my balance and coordination on ice, while ice hockey helped build strength and endurance for ballet . . . . Although I did frequently receive some odd expressions when I showed up for hockey games dressed in my ballet outfits on the days when I had back-to-back practices.”
To unwind from the day
Needlepoint. “It’s a great way to destress because it requires you to focus on it and nothing else. You have to turn off thinking and worrying and just do it.”
If she didn’t do this
“Work in a craft store.”
One last thing
She’s worked with many organizations, including the Society of Women Engineers (WSE) and Women in STEM Advancing Research, Readiness, and Retention (WiSTAR3) at UT, to help build support networks and offer professional development events to improve recruitment and retention of underrepresented groups in STEM.
“I was first exposed to the impact of underrepresentation in engineering when I was the only girl to represent my high school at a math competition. One of the boys made a rude joke about what a privilege it was for me to be allowed to hang out with them.”