Browsing Tag



STEMinist Profile: Barbara Holtz, Business Executive, MaterialsDesign

Dr. Barbara Holtz

Business Executive


What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I was very good at math and interested in technology from a very young age. I also grew up in East Germany where there was much less choice for studies in Social Sciences, Languages and Humanities—especially when you were not “aligned” with the system. Also: in East Germany women were much more assertive and studying a “male” subject was less of an exception.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
After studying physics and teaching at a University for a year I joined a company which makes scientific software. Instead of working in Development I started to work in Sales, selling technology and highly complex software to scientists is a very rewarding career for myself.

The most exciting project was a few years ago when a major chemical company decided to start a new research group and I worked very closely with the Manager of that group, not only eventually selling our technology but also placing a scientist as a contract research scientist with that group. Apart from that my sales role has given me the opportunity to travel to many different countries, meeting many different cool people along the way.

Role models/heroes:
Marie Curie as a scientist, Ginni Rometty as a Business Leader and Angela Merkel as a physicist turned Chancellor.

Why do you love working in STEM?
Technology is all around us, most people take it for granted: new materials, new ways of communications, so many things. So being in close contact to how those technologies come about is very exciting every time. As a Sales person I manage to get to go to many different companies and see what is happening in their R&D departments, I have learned about flavours and fragrances, about polymers for everyday materials, about catalysts and consumer packaged goods such as shampoos.

Understanding the challenges that are coming with the development of new materials with new properties and their production satisfies my neverending curiosity. To give an example: shampoo makers are challenged to develop new shamposs which slide out of the bottle easily, but then not off your hand—we have all been in the shower and the shampoo does not behave as we would like it to—the requirements for those material properties are usually conflicting and never cease to amaze me. It makes me look at the world in a different way every day.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Don’t just think of STEM as lab work, there are a million other jobs out there, which require the analytical skills which come with a STEM education. Marketing, Business, Support and Training jobs are just as important to scientists and require STEMinists. Those jobs can be fitted around normal family life as well. Later in a career there are possibilities to turn years of experience into a freelance consulting job or on the way there is a chance to start your own business, who knows….

Favorite website/app:
LinkedIn and Twitter.

Website: LinkedIn
Twitter: @holtzbarbara


STEMinist Profile: Michelle Hsia, Materials & Process Engineer

Michelle Hsia

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…

Role models/heroes:
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.

Twitter: @tswei_chen