Michelle T. Hsia
Materials & Process Engineer
Contract to Weber Aircraft, LLC
What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
Honestly, I wasn’t really sure what to do… My brother’s friends kind of pushed me into it since I was good at math and I loved science! I couldn’t figure out what to do that would actually make any money; I didn’t like history or political science or teaching. So, I decided to go into engineering. Then, it was basically a decision between Aerospace or Mechanical. Ultimately, I chose Mechanical.
What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
In undergrad, it was the Formula SAE race car. We won the 2 years I was on the team. The 2nd year, I co-captained. It was an amazing experience; something that shaped my career. In industry, I performed a metallurgical root cause failure analysis on a test aircraft fuselage. It blew up during a test. After about a month and a half looking at all of the fracture surfaces, testing material chemistry, tensile testing material, etc., where everything looked normal, it all boiled down to the fact that there was a piece that was not replaced during routine maintenance. Bolt pattern showed me where the origin was. The part was cycled so much, it finally failed. The video of the fuselage blowing up was pretty cool…
I don’t know if I have any heroes. I had some pretty good mentors, though. Dr. Stephen Kugle was the first professor that challenged me more than what was taught in class. Dr. Bob Woods was a great faculty advisor for Formula SAE. He taught me how to look at the overall/bigger picture. Carroll Smith was a great mentor. I spoke to him a lot about engineering, jobs, etc. It was a sad day in motorsports when he passed away.
Why do you love working in STEM?
I like the problem solving aspect of things. I’m not a design engineer, but I have to know about it to do my job. I’m not a manufacturing engineer, but I need to know that too. I have to know a little or a lot about certain topics to be effective and to help people do their jobs better. Right now, I’m learning about plastics and plastic injection molding. It’s not my area of expertise, but it’s very interesting in a failure analysis aspect. I like that what I do requires me to learn things everyday.
Advice for future STEMinists?
Join the design projects while you’re in school, even if you don’t get course credit! It’s the best way to learn and apply what they teach you in class. Sometimes what they teach you is confusing unless you actually see it. I found out from classes – and a particular professor who taught dynamics – that I wanted to do failure analysis. But I found out from the Formula SAE team that I liked materials. I also found out from my first job that I didn’t want to be a design engineer. Find something that you love and stick with it. Don’t be afraid to try things just because you’re a girl; use it to your advantage.
Favorite website or app:
I think the best app, if you love music, is Shazam or Soundhound. Mostly because when I hear something I like, I can find out what it is and who sings it right away. Since I’m still in school (getting my MBA), I love Dropbox. We all use it; and having the app allows me to access what I need to.