Forty Under 40 Woman of the Year | Amos finds time for two demanding jobs

Forty Under 40 Woman of the Year | Amos finds time for two demanding jobs

Jenny Amos is often compared to Hermione Granger, of "Harry Potter" fame, because of her ability to fit many activities into a day.

It's almost as if Central Illinois Business' Forty Under 40 Woman of the Year has a "time-turner," the device Granger uses for time travel, admiring colleagues say.

Amos has been the University of Illinois' director of undergraduate programs in bioengineering, been promoted to senior lecturer and is now an associate teaching professor. She now also serves as director of assessment and evaluation at the new Carle Illinois College of Medicine, where she has taken a leading role in developing curriculum and assessment.

Although it meant splitting her time with bioengineering, where she'd been for eight years, Amos decided the offer was too good to refuse.

"I spoke with my mentors, and they all agreed that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," she said.

"I have been working across both programs since then, and it's been a great experience, since both programs have overlap in content and benefit from each other."

UI Professor emeritus Michael Hirschi is a fan.

Amos' nominator said she "has taken the educational objectives for bioengineering, where nearly a third of the students continue on to medical school, and helped redesign medical school to focus on leveraging these students' background to accelerate learning of medicine and to produce future doctors with different ways of thinking about medical challenges.

"Throughout the development of the engineering-driven medical curriculum, she has also identified new ways to merge physiology and medicine back into her engineering courses. This effort will fundamentally transform the role of the bioengineer in medicine and, simultaneously, prepare future medical doctors for a high-tech, big-data clinic."

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As a girl, Amos, 36, liked space and thought about being an astronaut.

"I was really interested in science; it kept my interest all through school," she said.

Amos' first high-school job was at a deli. Her first engineering job was at a factory, where she did research and development on candles.

"I looked like I was having a séance all the time," she laughed. "But I smelled amazing."

Amos received her chemical engineering degree from Texas Tech and her Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of South Carolina. She joined the UI in 2009 as a bioengineering department lecturer.

Amos is co-founder and faculty adviser for Engineering Ambassadors at Illinois, which is part of a nationwide effort to inspire middle and high school students to challenge conventional ideas about science and engineering.

She discovered her love of education as a seventh-grade science teacher. She's been surprised by her profession's rapid evolution.

"Everything I learned in college has pretty much changed now," she said. "Education has changed so much in the last few years, I don't know what to expect."

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There is a push for online learning that wasn't there when Amos was in college, so she has no model to follow as she gets ready for upcoming classes.

"It seems like a new job every year," Amos said. "I have a lot of joy in learning. I love the opportunity it's given me to travel."

One of her favorite locales is Sierra Leone, where she goes annually as the principal investigator on a capacity-building grant at Njala University. She partnered with start-up Invoq Health to create and implement electronic medical records for the west African nation.

Another favorite is France, where she went as a 2015 Fulbright Specialist Scholar. Her children were able to attend French school while there.

Amos' heart for helping comes from the home she was raised in; her parents often took in troubled kids. Constantly meeting new people gave her a unique perspective.

"They were like my brothers and sisters," Amos said. "I was exposed to everything. There were never negative words about someone."

Many of Amos' mother's students called her "Dr. Mom."

"She helped take care of people," Amos said.

Amos enjoys inspiring younger females to go into engineering.

"I want kids to think, 'That could be me,'" she said. "It's a good career path."

She believes those under 40 can bring their workplaces different ways of thinking.

"We're more open to changing the way things are done," she said. "But many of my friends over 40 have just as much energy and openness."

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