Looking back on my academic career, I realize how incredibly fortunate I was to be introduced to the world of research as a young high school student.
Through a mentorship program at my high school, I was able to intern at Northrop Grumman during my senior year (and many summers afterward) to complete a research project on internet protocols for High Performance Computing applications. I did not yet fully grasp the unique opportunity I had been given to appreciate the joys and frustrations of research at such a young age.
My opportunities to participate in research continued at the University of Virginia. During my sophomore year, I approached Dr. Christopher Goyne, director of the Aerospace Research Lab, and inquired about how I could get involved with his research on supersonic combustion ramjet (scramjet) engines. It was this meeting that sparked a two year journey to learn about scramjet technology, current research, and the social implications of scramjet applications.
It was a natural progression for me to continue onto graduate school. For my master’s degree research, I decided to explore something a bit out of my aerospace comfort zone. I joined the Pruitt Microsystems Lab at Stanford University where I worked on designing bio-MEMS for cell mechanobiology research applications.
For the first three years of my PhD candidacy, I returned to my thermoscience roots in the Hanson Research Group and as a visitor at the Combustion Research Facility at Sandia National Labs. I enjoyed the technical work and, at the same time, I became increasingly aware of the lack of diversity around me the higher I climbed in the thermoscience world, not only in gender and ethnicity, but also in ways of thinking. The best engineering solutions come from a diversity of ideas and perspectives and we simply cannot achieve this with a group of homogenous engineers.
In 2015, I jumped on the opportunity to complete an interdisciplinary research project to try and understand more about engineering culture and ways to create change. I transitioned to the Designing Education Lab to explore the role that engineering education plays in promoting convergent thinking at the expense of fostering divergent thinking and innovative ideas.
A constant throughout these research projects was the development of strong quantitive and critical thinking skills and an ability to work in many different team settings. I have a widely varied background in research topics and techniques; I think this broadens my perspective when approaching a research problem and allows me to be a productive and insightful team member.