Dr. Kelly Pennell is a civil engineering professor specializing in environmental engineering here at UK. Her research mainly deals with looking at biological or chemical contaminants in the environment and how to treat them. Dr. Pennell had aspired to study engineering while growing up, and even back in high school environmental topics interested her. After working in the industry for five and a half years, Dr. Pennell decided to focus on research. She earned a master’s degree at Rose Holeman and a PhD at Purdue University. Before coming to UK, she worked at Brown University and University of Massachusetts.
Interestingly, Dr. Pennell’s husband is also a professor at UK. As an academic couple with young children, juggling home life while both travel often for work has required lots of teamwork. They actually came to UK because it provided them the opportunity to work at the same university and simplify their lives a bit. Despite her strong support system at home, Dr. Pennell has felt social pressure about her choice, as a woman, to lead a big career. Some people will comment about how great it must be that her husband “lets her work,” but no one would ever say that sort of thing to her husband. She also finds humor in the fact that people will give her tips on how to get stains out of her kids’ clothes even her husband does all the laundry. Despite the stereotypes, Dr. Pennell wants young women in STEM not to let anyone discourage them, and she wants them to know that they have talents that are going to be important. She emphasized that women in STEM bring diverse perspectives to the table, which are required for solving the wide range of problems that we face.