Dr. Emily Hunt is the Dean and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at WTAMU. A Canyon native, she earned her B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in mechanical engineering from Texas Tech University. As a renowned engineer, researcher and author, Dr. Hunt is not only helping pave the way for female engineers in a male-dominated field, but is also positioning WT’s engineering programs competitive on a national scale.
Dr. Hunt: I grew up here in Canyon and attended Canyon High School. When I graduated from high school, I knew I wanted to do something with math and science. Those subjects were my favorite, really math. My dad had worked at Pantex for years. He worked with a lot of engineers and he suggested that I try engineering. At that time, WT did not have an engineering program but I went to Texas Tech, the closest engineering program.
While in my third year at Tech, we got our first female engineering professor, Dr. Michelle Pantoya. I took her heat transfer class and I remember falling in love with both the class and the way she taught it — it was relevant. I had taken all these classes about machinery, classes that I knew were important for mechanical engineering, but were not all that interesting to me. The class was about energy, it was about using it from an engineering perspective, using resources to create what we need, and I loved it.
Michelle talked to me about graduate school. She said, “What do you think about studying for your master’s degree and then eventually a Ph.d.?” I had interviewed for jobs all over, and I remember calling my dad to say, “Dad, can I please go to graduate school?” That is how I got into academia.
At that time, it was the early 2000s; nanotechnology was really taking off and Michelle was on the forefront of the movement with all of the major agencies- Department of Energy, Department of Defense, National Science Foundation. She had this research funding coming. It was a really exciting time. When we started, we were some of the very first to characterize nano-energetic materials. Essentially, we were working on creating new materials and that is how I got into research and development.
When I was finishing my Ph.d. program, my mom sent me an article from the paper saying that WT was starting an engineering program and so I came back. I was excited to come back. I was married at the time and my husband said, “Are we really moving back to your hometown?” I said, “Oh, just wait…you are going to love it.” That is how I returned to this area, home.