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mechanical engineering

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Ghilane Bragagnolo, Research engineer

Ghilane Bragagnolo

Research engineer

McLaren Automotive- University of Surrey


What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I love my job as a researcher, I love thinking I am making the difference, working on understanding something that it’s still unknown. A car is not just something nice to look at, but behind that cool design there is the work of a team that aims to improve the car performances and this requires the understanding of a wide number of parameters such as materials, aerodynamics and electronics.

When someone asks me what do I do for living and I say that I’m a mechanical engineer, I’ve always found funny to see their surprised and full of merci faces! People get scared when they hear the word ‘engineer’. Honestly, I quite like the look of admiration painted on people faces!! but at the same time I would like them to understand that it’s not just a bunch of numbers and math, but it can actually be quite fun! This is the reason I became a STEM ambassador, to transmit what I do to the public, starting to children who have to believe that engineering is not scary but something everyone can do and enjoy.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
My doctorate project of course! For now, it is the most interesting project I have been working on. I am focusing in crush structures, composite materials and modeling/simulation techniques. This is not just a very challenging area but it is also very exciting! I consider myself lucky to be working with such a great company and to be able to touch by hand the results of my work.

Role models and heroes:
My parents. My dad is not just a model for me but he is my one and only hero. He built his own company from zero, as self learner, and he is the smartest person I have ever met. My mum is, on the other hand, one of the strongest women I know.

I would like to mention some of the women I heard about, who have a very good job and at the same time are good mothers, who take their children to school and go to their lacrosse and football games. However, I have never met one of those yet, and I am quite sceptic about it. But it is for sure something I would like to aspire to.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
I enjoy the challenge of being a researcher and at the same time developing professional skills thanks to the link with the company. I am half way through my doctorate and I have already learnt so much. Every day is unique, you can be in the labs, in the office, at conferences or at meetings. With every day comes a new challenge and that certainly keeps things interesting.

During my last high school year, while I was choosing which degree to pursue, my mum was concerned about her daughter getting into in a male-dominated area. One of my teachers told her: ‘ She can do anything she wants, tell her she can and she will’. Sometimes, hearing from the outside that you can do something it really helps you to believe you can. I like going into schools talking to young people about my career. I like to think that if they meet someone they admire and aspire to, they can push to get there.

Advice for future STEMinists?
It is such a rewarding career that you will forget how difficult and stressful it had been to get there! Do what you love and make of a job your passion, it will feel more like a hobby than a job!

Favorite website or app: LinkedIn

Blog

STEMinist Profile: Natalie Panek, Mission Systems Engineer

Natalie Panek

Mission Systems Engineer

MDA Space Missions


What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
My career in STEM began with a dream to travel to space. I was always good at math and science, but loved the adventure involved with becoming an astronaut and was drawn to exploration. This was the deciding factor in pursuing mechanical and aerospace engineering degrees. I also love doing hands-on work and playing with hardware and technology, so engineering is a great fit!

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I have had the opportunity to work on some amazing projects over the past few years. I’ve driven a solar-powered car across North America, got my pilot’s license, and skydived with Korea’s first Astronaut. I’ve interned at both NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center (working on reliability engineering) and NASA Ames Research Center (on a Mission to Mars!).

At my current job, I first started working as an Operations Engineer for the Next Generation Canadarm Project. The goal of this project was to build two new robotic arms to repair and service satellites that have broken components, or have run out of fuel. It is about being more conscious of what we are putting into space and thinking about sustainable exploration. Now I help support the robotics on the International Space Station.

I loved these projects because I was innovating for extreme environments and working with outgoing and dynamic peers. This type of environment gives you the confidence to want to change the world!

Role models and heroes:
My role models are the amazing women that I am able to interact with while pursuing a career in STEM; for example, my instructor when I got my pilot’s license, Athenia Jansen. She exuded confidence and passion, which I think carried her far in a male-dominated field. This is similar for Lt-Col. Maryse Carmichael, Commanding Officer of the Canadian Snowbirds.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
I love working in STEM because it is an opportunity to seek out unfamiliar situations and really challenge myself or push my limits. A curiosity for science, engineering, and technology can cultivate innovation and facilitates life long learning. STEM is a gateway to exploration, which emphasizes the intricate balance between human progress and an entire universe waiting for discovery.

Advice for future STEMinists?
My advice for future women in STEM is to dive head-on into challenging careers. Do not be afraid of risk and take on leadership roles in order to revolutionize what women can accomplish in challenging fields that can influence the foundations of our generation and the next. Also learning teamwork skills, competence, toughness, discipline, responsibility and confidence can really help foster innovation and drive what is possible.

Favorite website or app:
One of my favorite websites is of big mountain skier Christina Lustenberger: http://christinalusti.com/

She has a passion for the mountains, outdoors, and exploration. She is pushing the limits of women’s ski mountaineering. And the pictures on her blog are gorgeous!

Twitter: @nmpanek
Site: thepanekroom.com

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Amanda Conger, Mechanical Design Engineer

Amanda Conger

Amanda Conger, P.E.

Mechanical Design Engineer
Engineering Consulting Firm



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
My mother had introduced me to the idea of being an architect, which I thought sounded pretty neat, so when I had an opportunity to job shadow a professional, I selected a female architect. The woman was wonderful, but when I kept peppering her with questions about how the buildings stayed up and who made sure there was room for the air conditioning ducts, she steered me toward architectural engineering. Researching that introduced me to the more general field of engineering and I was hooked. I am forever grateful to that architect for putting me on the right path.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
One of the best parts of my job is that I get to do a little bit of everything so I have worked on projects ranging from tiny, hand held enclosures, to a 20 foot diameter, two story tall helicopter simulator. I’ve worked on military, commercial, and industrial projects. And the most gratifying projects are the ones where you really see it all come together.

Whether that is theoretically (as in the white paper I coauthored on the thermal characteristics of a body worn computer) or empirically (as in the industrial flat bed printer I spent a week camped out in a warehouse doing the bulk of the assembly on), being able to look at a finished product and say “I did that” is powerful stuff.

Role models and heroes:
I am forever indebted to the women who came before me. The ones who opened the doors, ignored the stereotypes, and just kept right on doing what they wanted to do. That takes an amazing amount of strength and self-certainty.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Don’t be discouraged because something is “hard”. It’s normal to try and fail. What matters is that you pick yourself back up and say “Well, that didn’t work, maybe this will.” and try again. No one has all the answers, even if it seems like they do.

Also, learn the difference between “good enough” and “perfect”. The difference between a 97% and a 100% may matter in school but it rarely matters in the work force. Take the energy you would put into that last 3% and use it to get started on something else. That same effort can often get you 50% of the way through the next big thing.

Favorite website or app:
Pinterest is my most recent favorite website. I love all the eye candy and it’s chock full of great DIY ideas.

EEBA is my favorite app. It allows you to use digital “envelopes” to manage your money which is perfect for my debit card dependent self.

Twitter: @mrsdragon
Site: www.mrsdragon.net