Lisa Burdin, a secretary IV, works in one of the coolest places on campus: the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Center in the department of mechanical and industrial engineering. Maybe that’s why she’s chosen to work there for most of her 17-year career with the university. But when the temperatures outside begin to dip into the lower digits every winter, Burdin and her husband, Steve, who also works on campus, like to flee Illinois for tropical climes, such as the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Mexico.
Tell me about the center.
We explore ways to make energy-efficient, cost-effective equipment and minimize the environmental impact, ozone-free refrigerants, etc.
I started (at the university) in October 1987 working in the department of philosophy. I worked there for two years and came to mechanical and industrial engineering in February 1990 and have been in this position ever since.
I answer the phones, do correspondence and help the professors with their schedules. I do basic updates to our Web site, such as adding new pages. We have annual reports and proposals that we send out. We also publish reports when students finish their theses. The reports are initially sent to the sponsoring companies for their review, and once they look them over and make sure there’s nothing proprietary in them, we can send them to the library for general distribution. We currently have 29 industry sponsors. We also have about 100-150 visitors to our labs each year.
We have meetings twice a year that I prepare for, a fall meeting where our sponsors visit to see what’s happened in the last year and the students present their last year’s work, and another meeting the last week of March where we present proposals for new research, and the professors present at that meeting.
You’ve been in your job a long time. What’s made you stay?
I like what I do, and I hate change. You get familiar with something and it is hard to change. ACRC started in August 1989. I started here in February 1990 and have seen a lot of companies and students come and go, at least 150 grad students who have gotten their degrees and moved on. Some of them come back for the meetings because they work for sponsoring companies, so it’s nice to see them.
What’s the most challenging part about what you do?
The meetings. The last-minute changes can drive me crazy. But it’s nice to know that once the meeting is over that you’ve pulled it off again. I know in some jobs they do that kind of thing all the time, and it’s not easy.
The most recent meeting, which we just finished, is my 30th. We had 44 visitors at the meeting.
What’s your educational background?
I took about two years of courses at Parkland but I didn’t finish. I was majoring in data processing. It was a little tougher than I expected.
What kinds of things do you like to do when you’re not working?
I read a lot, mostly mysteries. I like to read any author that writes a series. I like the serious mysteries written by Patricia Cornwell and Jan Burke; I like the funny ones by Janet Evanovich. J.D. Robb has a futuristic series. I also like John Grisham.
I like to sew doll clothes for my nieces for Christmas and birthday presents. I also like to try to quilt. I made one quilt out of recycled blue jeans that is denim on one side and cotton on the other.
I also have a small vegetable and flower garden. I bowl in the faculty-staff league at Western Bowl. It is a lot of fun. I’ve been bowling in this league for four or five years. I average about 140. I actually met my husband bowling about 10 years ago in a Monday-night league at the Illini Union. He was on a different team. We’ve been married 6 1/2 years. Steve works on campus in the Center for Microanalysis of Materials.
Steve and I like to travel during January to nice, warm locations.
Do you have plans to go anywhere this winter?
Not yet. We like to take advantage of last-minute deals. I’d have to sayour favorite location is St. Lucia, where we went for our honeymoon. It’s beautiful down there.