What’s Your Field?

What’s Your Field? – Tissue Engineering in Space/Medical Devices

Posted on September 30, 2011. Filed under: What's Your Field? |

When I was in high school and considering careers, I thought I wanted to be a Broadway star or an astronaut.  Because I was really good at school, but never got a lead role in a play, I realized that I would be more successful in reaching my goal to be an astronaut.  This was a big step that most people don’t make – to understand the difference between a profession and a hobby.  Theatre is still my hobby.

As a senior, I visited Purdue a few times when they hosted engineering days.   I then considered the different engineering majors that I could pursue to be an astronaut.  Later I decided that if I were an aeronautical engineer, I would design the rockets, but I wouldn’t necessarily fly on them.  Since I really wanted to fly on them, I decided that I should know about the experiments that fly on the spacecraft.  That was one reason I chose Biomedical Engineering – so that I could design and run experiments in space.  Also, I got a hand-out from Purdue that discussed Tissue Engineering as one field in Biomedical Engineering.  Tissue Engineering is a field in which engineers know about biology, medicine, and engineering to design and grow living tissues and organs in the laboratory so that people who need organ transplants can get an organ.  That sounded great!  One of my friends in high school had juvenile diabetes, and he asked me to make him a new pancreas.

When I was in college, I was a co-op student at NASA and got to do the experiments that would go up in space.  I also learned that I would need a PhD to be a NASA scientist or astronaut.  So I earned my PhD in Bioengineering doing Tissue Engineering, where I grew blood vessels in a Petri dish.  Now I work on medical devices that deliver drugs while implanted inside of people.  My degrees have given me many opportunities, and some day, I hope that I will get to fly in space and run my experiments on tissues and drugs.

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What’s Your Field? – Optical Engineering/Cool Applications

Posted on September 30, 2011. Filed under: What's Your Field? |

I chose my engineering field more or less on a whim.  Originally, I was going to pursue an Engineering Physics major since I didn’t really know what kind of engineering I preferred.  After visiting the Engineering Physics Department’s website, I discovered another engineering field within this same department: Optical Engineering.  Having never heard of Optical Engineering before, I became intrigued and began reading about it. I soon learned that Optical Engineering covered a broad range of really interesting topics such as lasers, holograms, x-rays, imaging, fiber optics, electro-optics, and more.  At this point I decided to head down the Optical Engineering path because it had so many cool applications.

Another great part about this career path is the never ending new technologies and breakthroughs. This isn’t a career where you do “the-same-old-same-old.” There are always new challenges to see how far we can push the limits, and that never gets boring!

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What’s Your Field? – Mechanical Engineering/Solving Problems Every Day

Posted on September 30, 2011. Filed under: What's Your Field? |

I have always been obsessed with how things work and why things work the way they do.  Thanks to an awesome high school teacher, I found that physics could explain a lot about the interactions between things.  Through physics, I was also introduced to a lot of concepts that I had never noticed before – like how rolling a bouncy ball off the table at the same time as dropping another one from the same height will end in  both hitting the floor at the same time, even if the mass is different. (That experiment is definitely one you need to try!)  When choosing a college major, I lucked out by choosing Mechanical Engineering. I knew that I didn’t want to focus on literature, and I knew I was good at math.  Engineering turned out to be an entire degree based on learning how to solve problems.   In engineering you learn how to analyze a problem and a systematic way of thinking to come to a solution.  It is up to the individual to draw on her experiences and personal creative flair within the framework of that systematic method to develop innovative and unique solutions.

I LOVE ENGINEERING!  In my current position as a Manufacturing Engineer, so many problems pop up every day, some of them big and some of them small. Each one unique and each one needing someone to ask, “Why is this happening?” and “What has changed?”  That’s where I come in.  I have the opportunity to determine why something has happened and gather data to prove why or how the problem occurred.  I do not always work by myself; each problem increases what I know by teaming with the people in my area.  Although I am early in my career, I see myself staying in engineering for a long time to come.  My job just fits my personality.  My job has so many different avenues that I have yet to experience, and I look forward to learning about all of them.

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