My experiences as an undergraduate have taken me to many places and allowed me to do many things. From the foundations of my summer research and on to my co-op job in Portland, Oregon, I have learned so much more than just solving equations from a text book. I have learned professional ethics, corporate culture, and even how to deal with complex workplace issues. I’ve learned how to find my voice in a bustling room of arguing team members and more importantly learned when to be quiet. I know that had it not been for some experiences I’ve had down the road, that I may not have learned these skills until much later.
I often think back to high school, being told “Women don’t go into engineering, that’s typically a man’s field. Why don’t you try nursing?” This lit a fire in me. After this, succeeding in engineering became paramount. But, this isn’t the reason I am still an engineer today. Engineering is now more than just proving someone wrong, it is about discovering the things that engineers can do to improve the world.
My first experience with research was through a program called WISE. While most students went home for summer break, I stayed at UC and was given a stipend to work with a professor to perform research. Before the program started, we were required to walk through labs in order to choose which area suited us best. I went to three different labs. One involved tissue engineering, another involved ultra sonic ablation of tumors, and the last was using nanotube electrode sensors to detect proteins in the body. While the first two were actually within my own department, there was something intriguing about the nano-scale science itself.
I worked with Dr. Mark Schulz in the department of Mechanical, Industrial, and Nuclear Engineering. I mainly did testing of the sensors. I had to learn a lot of new things that didn’t completely make sense, but Dr. Schulz gave me a great deal of freedom to experiment on my own. I worked side by side with another graduate student to assist in the research and compile data. Through this experience, I was submitted as an author on two publications and was able to attend the Nano 2006 conference in downtown Cincinnati.
This experience was so special to me because it showed me how much I loved the exploration and even the frustration of research. One of the things I loved most was showing off our lab to both visiting professors and graduates. I truly enjoyed teaching middle school student about what nano-tubes and bucky balls are. The best part was that many of these student could at least grasp the idea of what we were doing in our lab. I should also mention that this experience has taught me that all nano isn’t equal, be aware that just because it is nano, doesn’t mean it is good! I call this nano-washing.
Summer research propelled me into my current position as a co-op at Nike Inc. working in the research and development of cushioning technologies. At Nike, I work on different airbags and Shox technologies. It has been really interesting to research both in an academic environment and in a corporate one. Graduate school has become the obvious option for me as I am looking forward to choosing a PhD program to further my experiences in research. I just need to decide on the right area of study!