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Dayton Engineer

Penny Timmer

From Advisor to Lab Manager: Committed to Student Success

Through two positions and ten years, lab manager Penny Timmer has always been committed to supporting students.

Timmer, from Michigan, graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. Originally majoring in chemistry, she found that a career in chemistry wasn’t right for her.

“I was always somebody who was happiest in math and science,” Timmer said. “My mom taught people to sew and as a young person, I was cutting fabric for people and doing math problems to figure out how much fabric they needed.”

And out of all things to influence her decision to change to electrical engineering, it was the technology behind her graphic calculator. 

“I carried that thing around like a teddy bear,” Timmer said. “And I'm like, ‘somebody had to make that. That's so cool.’”

After graduation, Timmer worked at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in the Electro-Optics and Night Vision Department. She worked there for one year before becoming a stay-at-home mom to care for her family for the next 12 years.

In 2006, her family moved to Dayton and in 2014, she was ready to go back to the workforce as her kids were school-age. Her friend was an academic advisor in the School of Engineering and told her that the school was looking to hire additional advisors. 

“I always loved being a student. So it was really easy to step into a role where you're helping students learn how to be a student,” Timmer said. “I liked that I could use my experience as a student to help somebody be successful in engineering.”

Timmer was an academic advisor for electrical and computer engineering for five years. She enjoyed helping students find their passion, work through challenging times and simply be a familiar person to lean on for support.

In 2019, she was ready for something new and was interested in going back to work in industry. But the global pandemic didn’t make the job search easy. In fact, she found herself back at the School of Engineering for a new opportunity. 

Julie Motz, now a faculty member in the Department of Engineering Management, Systems and Technology, was working as a lab manager for the school and was looking for support with another lab manager. Timmer was interested in the position because she was able to work on more technical projects, but still work with colleagues she loved to be around and help students.

She’s been supporting electrical and computer engineering programs as lab manager since 2021. Although no day is the same, Timmer fills her days with helping students acquire equipment to complete a lab they missed, placing orders, responding to needs of faculty and researchers and training students on proper equipment practices and safety. 

“I really enjoy seeing some of the technology people are working on,” Timmer said. “The innovation I get to see is more than just from electrical and computer faculty. I get to see and learn about it from all disciplines and faculty.”

Timmer certainly found her home at UD — at the same time as she helped Flyers find their own community on campus. 

“When I was an advisor, one of the things I said to a lot of students and a lot of parents is that you've got to go to a place that makes you feel good about being there,” Timmer said.

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