Trinity Senior Elizabeth Gerber Honored as Woman of Innovation

Engineering Student helping to restore World War II Corsair Fighter Aircraft

HARTFORD, CT, April 8, 2014 – Elizabeth Gerber ’14, was on quite a roll. First she was nominated as a Woman of Innovation and feted at the Connecticut Technology Council’s March 27 dinner at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington. And shortly thereafter, she was selected as the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) women’s tennis player of the week.

Gerber, of Bethesda, MD, was one of 59 women in Connecticut to be honored for her innovation and leadership during the organization’s 10th annual awards dinner. The program recognizes women who are innovators, role models and leaders in the fields of technology, science and engineering.

Gerber was nominated in the student category by Craig McBurney, founder of Connecticut Corsair, a nonprofit aerospace company where Gerber has worked since May 2013.

“Elizabeth has singlehandedly educated people about Trinity’s engineering program more than anyone I know,” said McBurney. “She’s really raised awareness of the program.”

Ironically, the fact that Trinity is a liberal arts college with an accredited engineering program is the primary reason that Gerber, whose major is mechanical engineering and whose minor is legal studies, chose to come to the College. “In addition,” she said in a recent interview, “I knew that I could play varsity tennis and balance all my extracurricular interests. I’m going to graduate knowing that I tried everything.” While at Trinity, Gerber also has been a student admissions associate and a Quest leader.

Gerber, who was always interested in aeronautical engineering, said she was “blown away” to be one of the honorees at the dinner. “I was surrounded by all these brilliant women and men who have done such extraordinary things in their lives.”

Among those who have been an inspiration to Gerber is Elizabeth Garypie ’99, who is the director of systems engineering at Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation. “Even though our interactions have been few, they have been incredibly meaningful to me,” said Gerber.

Elizabeth Garypie '99 pictured at left with Elizabeth Gerber '14 at the March 27 Women in Innovation honorees dinner.

Garypie spoke of her experience as a female engineer during a Society of Women Engineers event at Trinity when Gerber was a first-year student. When Gerber began searching for summer jobs, she reached out to Garypie, whom Gerber described as “a phenomenal mentor.” She “helped me to concretely determine that aeronautics and flight is the industry that I am most passionate about.”

What’s more, said Gerber, Garypie “succeeded in more ways than one as an engineer with a bachelor of science degree from Trinity and as a female in a field that is not particularly dominated by females.”

Last summer, Gerber received a grant from the NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium, which gives money to students on the basis of their interests and ideas. The grant allowed Gerber to work with a local aerospace company, Connecticut Corsair, which is a nonprofit organization that is devoted to restoring the World War II Corsair fighter aircraft to flight condition. The group is completely reliant on volunteers and grant recipients.

It was during her work on that project that Gerber met McBurney, a commercial pilot who subsequently nominated her for the Women of Innovation award.

“Elizabeth Gerber embodies the meaning of a Woman of Innovation through her dedication to her academic and athletic career,” McBurney wrote in his nominating letter. “She is developing unique applications to use Connecticut’s advanced and emerging technologies, and freely shares these opportunities with other students to help restore our state symbol, ‘Connecticut’s Official State Aircraft’, the United Technologies Corporation’s Legacy Vought-Sikorsky WWII F4U Corsair.”

In his letter, McBurney went on to say: “Elizabeth has developed innovative applications for the Corsair restoration, such as 3D Printing (rapid prototyping and production of tooling), reverse engineering of complex aircraft structures using 3D white light and laser scanning, and design of critical aircraft tooling utilizing SolidWorks CAD software. These creative applications are changing the manufacturing processes used to fabricate parts for legacy, current and future aircraft and will have a direct benefit [on] Connecticut’s small businesses and our state’s economy.”

Gerber enjoyed the experience so much that she turned it into her Capstone senior design project. Along with two other senior engineering students, the three have designed a fixture that is used to assemble the front fuselage of the Corsair. Gerber, the team leader, expects the project to be completed within days.

Overall, Gerber, who has already lined up a post-commencement job with IBM, has found her Trinity experience tremendously fulfilling.

“Both Liz and Craig have inspired me that if you dream big, have confidence in what you know and what you can do, and work hard, you can achieve all that you wish to achieve,” she said. “They have shown me the truth to engineering and the impact that engineering can have on the world.”