Student–Athlete and Pinnacle Scholar Megan Dion Wins Electrical Engineering Scholarship
Accomplished undergrad is one of less than 100 national winners given funding and networking opportunities to pursue degrees in power engineering
In addition to her monumental resume, Megan Dion ’25 now has another feather to add to her cap: being a recipient of the 2022-23 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Power and Energy Society (PES) Scholarship Plus.
This scholarship program awards promising students up to three years of scholarship money as well as connecting them to internships and networks within power and energy engineering. Seventy-five students across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico were chosen as award winners this year.
Dion is a varsity volleyball player and on the executive board for the student–athlete advisory committee (SAAC), where she acts as the conference representative for Stevens to the Middle Atlantic conference. She heard about the PES scholarship through a fellow SAAC member, Allison Buffenbarger ’22. Buffenbarger was a recipient of the award in 2020-2021 and 2021-22, got her master’s degree in electrical engineering from Stevens with a concentration in power engineering, and now works at British Petroleum (BP). Stevens is often represented in the list of winners: since 2019, along with Dion and Buffenbarger, four other Stevens undergraduates have been the recipients of this award, and are now working at prestigious companies such as Nokia and Con Edison.
Upon hearing about the program from Buffenbarger, “I thought I would be a good candidate,” explained Dion. She thought her relevant experience, as well as being a woman in the primarily male-dominated field of electrical engineering, would give her a leg up. “I was 16 and in high school when I first started working with power design.”
From the power station to the train tracks to forensics
Dion's family history definitely helped inspire her career path: “My dad is an electrical contractor. He has owned a business since my sister and I were younger, and now he’s president of a contracting company in Philadelphia.” Growing up, Dion would follow her parents around as they navigated the family business, getting exposure to job sites and the world of the electrical industry.
“The funny thing,” said Dion, “is that I wanted nothing to do with it. I wanted to forge my own way.” Her high school work with Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing & Fire Protection firm FXB (named for founder Francis Xavier Bonnes) initially had her in the mechanical department, to which she applied specifically to diversify from electrical engineering. However, Dion couldn’t outrun her family history. Her time in the mechanical department at FXB taught her a lot, but didn’t spark her passion the way that electrical engineering did. “Electrical is way more interesting than mechanical! I knew what I was looking at from site visits with my dad. I was able to take my knowledge and expand it even more.”
She switched to an electrical department at FXB and continued her work there after her first semester at Stevens. That summer, she was given a project to work with the president of the company on a power distribution project — moving power lines underground in the U.S. Virgin Islands to help minimize power loss after hurricanes. This cemented her love of power engineering for good.
As a Stevens Cooperative Education Program student, Dion has made progress on two of the three work placements she’ll complete during her time at Stevens. At her first co-op placement she worked with the traction power division of engineering consultancy firm Howard, Needles, Tammen & Bergendoff (HNTB), a subdivision of the company’s rail division. “This was very interesting, very different,” explained Dion. Her previous work experience was all related to AC current, but in her capacity working with the various transit systems that make up New York state, she was using DC power. Her placement had her working with the Long Island Railroad, Metro North, MTA and Amtrak rail systems. “It was really interesting to work on projects that I use so much now that I am in the area,” said Dion.
Currently, Dion is at her second co-op placement at the structural engineering company Thornton Tomasetti, in their forensic engineering department. This again is a radical departure from her previous positions. “I’m working on a few different projects: we investigate fires or things that go wrong in the construction process or after, and determine who's at fault, what the issues are. We work with insurance professionals and attorneys to assist them as expert references and provide the engineering background to be expert witnesses.”
‘Generating’ an impactful future
Dion is excited about her future in power engineering, a field that focuses on the generation, transmission and distribution of electric power. She has one more co-op placement to complete before graduation and is already gearing up to utilize the connections that being a PES Scholar allows. “I can definitely see myself networking and reaching out to the companies they have provided,” said Dion, adding that the PES Scholar network had “already provided some very good networking opportunities.”
While she is highly focused on electrical engineering, however, Dion uses the interdisciplinary nature of the Stevens curriculum to keep herself well-rounded. Through the Pinnacle Scholar summer research fund she performed months of research with the School of Business Teaching Professor Donald Lombardi, writing corporate profiles and learning about business. She also plans this summer to continue her last summer’s work assisting Lombardi with the Stevens Select Summer Scholars Program (S4).
She also plans on using her benefits as a Pinnacle Scholar to take part in the Accelerated Master’s Program at Stevens, getting her Master’s in Electrical Engineering with a focus on Power Engineering after she graduates with her bachelor’s degree in the spring of 2025.
What Dion loves about power engineering is how dynamic the work is. “It’s constantly changing,” she said. As clean energy and sustainable development gain more and more traction, “I can see more work and more advancement in the future.”
With talented students at Stevens such as Dion and the other PES Scholars learning to be tomorrow’s leaders in power engineering, there are surely numerous exciting developments in the industry to come.