Some people frighten their fellow passengers on roller coaster rides by screaming. In line at an amusement park this summer, Andrea Bartoletti did it by talking about whether the coaster's beams could hold the stress.
A senior mechanical engineering major at the University of Maryland College Park, where 17 percent of her classmates are women, Ms. Bartoletti has jumped through an extra set of hoops to be able to assess the structure of bridges.
For starters, she came to college without the requisite physics and calculus because her all-girls high school didn't offer them.
The disadvantage caused her grade-point average to dip a fraction below the 3.0 required to keep her scholarship. When her appeal to the College of Engineering failed, she found herself juggling 17 credits and a part-time job.