Stephanie Mitrovic is principal, science and technology studio leader with SmithGroup in Phoenix. Lab Manager recently spoke with Stephanie about her career, experience, and personal interests.
Q: How did you get started in your career? Did you major in your field in college, get an internship, switch careers along the way, etc.?
A: I graduated with a BFA in Interior Design from Virginia Commonwealth University, where I combined my passion for art and design. To build on my interior design foundation, I considered graduate studies and opted to shift to architecture since I enjoyed designing at multiple scales and wanted the opportunity to take on design challenges as part of a team of interdisciplinary experts. I completed a Master of Architecture degree at Arizona State University—during which I completed a Capstone Thesis on Urbanism and Public Interest from Universidad Torcuato di Tella in Buenos Aires, Argentina—that had an enormous influence on my professional education. The opportunity to study abroad energized my passions for travel and learning about other cultures. The curriculum also opened my eyes to the exciting possibilities of designing at a campus scale. After completing my graduate studies, I had the chance to design in multiple sectors, from workplaces for government agencies and professional services firms to hospitality and science and technology. However, my favorite work was always with scientists and researchers committed to making a difference through innovation. Over time I have honed my career to work on meaningful, research-focused projects that can have a lasting impact on individuals and society at large.
Q: If you weren’t in this profession, what job do you think you’d be doing instead?
A: If I wasn’t an architect, I would be working with the U.S. State Department as a Foreign Service Ambassador. At first the positions might appear to be wildly different, but I believe the required skills for these roles have a lot in common. The creativity, cultural adaptability, and consensus building skills I use daily would all translate effortlessly to the State Department. In both roles, people are at the core of our mission, you work in service to a collective goal and no two days are ever alike. Working as a Foreign Service Ambassador would have many similarities to my current responsibilities as a studio leader while opening some new travel possibilities for my family!
Q: What is your favorite building, lab-related or not?
A: The National Renewable Energy Laboratory—Energy Systems Integration Facility on the Department of Energy campus in Golden, Colorado is one of my favorite buildings. It was the first significant SmithGroup-designed project to impact my career and convinced me to shift my career to focus on the design science and technology facilities. Honored as Lab of the Year by R&D Magazine, this first-of-its-kind ultra-green facility is dedicated to renewable energy research. The facility was designed to help scientists transform the nation’s aging energy grid and deploy next-generation advancements in power production and electrical infrastructure capabilities. The LEED Platinum facility houses 200 scientists and engineers and more than 14 highly sophisticated laboratories that include high-bay testing spaces and the world’s most powerful computing data center dedicated to energy efficiency and renewable power sources. As we face greater climate challenges, I could not be prouder of my small role in creating a building that will have a positive impact on our country’s energy goals.
Q: What lab projects are you working on at the moment?
A: One of the best parts of my role as the science and technology studio leader in SmithGroup’s Phoenix office is being involved in projects across all sectors, from government, corporate, and R&D to academic research. Right now, our team of 33 is working in nine states across the country. Currently, my lab projects include the University of Arizona Applied Research Building, which will open new avenues for aerospace research at the campus; and new facilities for multiple testing, diagnostics, and precision medicine clients, including Caris Life Sciences and other national life science developers and leading biotech companies in Arizona.
Q: What kinds of hobbies or interests do you have outside of work?
A: I want to experience all life and the world has to offer! I’ve always been up for an adventure, whether it’s skydiving or getting my kids to school with packed lunches. Another passion I enjoy is travel, especially international adventures. Being raised in a family with a shared passion for adventure, I had the opportunity to travel extensively as a child, which has shaped my view of the world and fuels my love of travel. I’ve visited over 50 countries, and I am proud to say my husband and I have passed on that same love of travel to our two young daughters!