Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Employers want you to be awesome...

This tech bubble has exploded into every aspect of our lives.  It's also influenced the way our generation works.  Think back to the start of Facebook, Apple, Microsoft...they consist of young, innovative, very hard working people.  But technology has left us to have an attention span of a 2 year old. 

So how do you look awesome to a employer?

1. Flexibility. If something needs to get done, it needs to get done.  Facebook didn't crash and burn because Mark Zuckerburg didn't ONLY work from 9-5.

2. Innovation.  To be honest, it doesn't have to be anything fancy.  Take a step back to look at the big picture. My team @ NASA was having a terrible time with the adhesive precision of a pin in a slot.  (This slot was round).  Since the slot was round, the adhesive would pull the pin in any direction.  I proposed constraining the pin using a v-groove.  Although it hasn't been testing, it was celebrated like the invention of sliced bread :-) Simple ideas help. 

3. Expression. Don't be afraid to express your ideas/questions.  Why do we do this? Why can't we do that? Instead of forcing it upon people, ask why it's not a viable option...they may come to realize that it is, and you were being snotty about it .  Also, expect to be shot down. Just remember that expression bridges the gap from innovation into production.

4. People that can shut up and listen.  Let's face it.  You don't know much about anything.  Listen to the people around you.  They often will give you the answers and advice to succeed.  They've been there, you haven't.  (Just be weary of the downers...which brings me to my NEXT point.)

5.  Enthusiasm. Nobody likes a Debbie Downer.  Even if you don't like it, do you best and learn something.  You're going to do a lot of things you don't like in  your lifetime.  Might as well get used to dealing with it (and making the most of it.)
  If you really want to know how to do this, try filling water vials for 8 hours...with cold, wet, raw hands.  You'll end up singing "99 bottles"....twice, haha.  You gotta make the most of situations.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Don't give up

   I graduated high school just as this current day recession started.  This infamous year of 2008 left me jobless, but due to my planning and hard work in high school, I was able to pursue an undergraduate education.  The start of my freshman year was tough.  I left sunny Southern California while looking as dismal prospects of finding a job once I graduated.  Oftne people would ask me, "Why engineering? It's so hhhaarrrdd. Just take the easy route and go for political science."  I would often comment it with "Well what do you want to do after you graduate?"
   "Become a lawyer... They make lots of money."  [Okay sidenote.  Lawyears make a lot of money, but they work hard too.  I've heard it's twice the salary for double the work.  $80,000 for 80 hrs per week.  Plus, there's a ton of reading legal jargon.  Personally, I think it's very difficult to work though.  Being a lawyer is NOT for the weary.]
   My first two year were particularily touch because I would time and time again that half (that's right..50%) of the industry is retiring in the next 5-10 years.  Aside from politics, they need someone to fill these roles.  So employers said they were looking, but I still didn't get an internship those summers....

Always look ahead.  Trust the people who tell you of great futures.  

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Neil deGrasse Tyson -- AMA on Reddit

I know this isn't exactly advice, but Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of my ALL TIME favorite physicists and scientists that I look up to. He had an "ask me anything" thread on Reddit a while ago and he has a second one today! I think it's over now, but it's still pretty awesome to read his insight on all the questions asked.

Click here to go to the thread

I'll post something more on topic later :)

Friday, December 16, 2011

GE Channel

I found the GE channel on Youtube, and I noticed some things about the videos...
  1. In order to trust the engineers/doctors/machine designers they need to be male. (Look at the Healthcare Video)
  2. The aerospace video makes it look like "it's a guy thing."
  3. You see a total lack of females. (Except in this video) 

Personally, I dislike this video.  It never mentions her education, and she sounds like she doesn't know what she's talking about.  It doesn't make us females look very smart...(even though she is).  I don't like the way they did this video.  

What do you think?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Submit a Question!

So I created a page to have you send your questions about STEM.  (The link is above!) I will probably be the one answering back, but if I don't have experience on the subject, I will definitely find the right person :-)

Go ahead! Ask anything! :-)

Where are all my Girl Friends?

There have been numerous times where I walk into a lecture hall, and I'm the only female and only person under....40 (to be generous).  Sometimes I just want a girlfriend to go and hang out with me in a cool, technology lecture....

Where have all the girls gone? Is it the lack of social environment that turns away girls? 

I feel, if you created groups to bring girls together, and show them their would greatly help.

SWE helps me....I get to go to girls, just like me, who are just as smart (if not smarter), just as funny (if not funnier), AND THEY UNDERSTAND MY MATH PROBLEMS!

Are these the problems with STEM? Are there not enough social outlets where the ratio is good enough? 

Just Do IT!

I've had a new philosophy lately: Don't NOT do something if other people aren't willing to go with you. 
I know that's a lot of negatives...But basically, if you wanna do something, do it! 

There have been too many instances where I miss out because one of my friends didn't want to go. 

And you know what? I've learned to become a much more independent, self-sustaining person because of it. 

What has this philosophy allowed me to do?

  • See an awesome modern dance show
  • Becomes an awesome modern dancer (haha, awesome, yeah right...)
  • Become a female engineer
  • Live in Dallas, Texas
  • See a bunch of movies and ballets (you don't talk during them anyway)
  • Obtain 6 letters of recommendation...and counting...
  • Learn about cool technologies (seminars and poster sessions)
  • Live, work, and play in Washington DC
  • Start a blog! 
  • Make new friends (I call them "bus friends."  I currently have about 4.)
This list can go on and on... Now that I think of it, most of these things are by myself. (I know that sounds really sad, but I've met a LOT of cool people on the way!) I would regret NOT doing these things. 

It takes a bold person to do these things...but being bold for the simple things will make it easier for the complicated ones...BE BOLD...BE AWESOME. (I'm behind you all the way!)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The world comes around...

The other day, I got to talk with the some members of the Informal Education Office at NASA GSFC....and you know what's funny?

So you remember that female engineer with the Mars Land Rovers that inspired me OH SO MANY YEARS AGO? Maybe this will jog your memory...

Well, I think I found her again! Someone told me about someone very similar....I think it's her...Let's cross our fingers :-D

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Yesterday, I saw a fantastic talk at NASA GSFC.  It was about creating Miniature Spacecraft.  Being honest, my first thought panned over to Cloverfield when those spiders were crawling off of the monster....which would go crawl on other planets, preparing the way.  Talk about a SciFi Movie...

So, I was initially skeptical.  However, these small circuits can be spread across space! Let Zachary talk about it...

How cool is this project?! You can have your name on a chip in space?! Sign me up!

Here, he basically talks about the scientific data you can collect within the higher atmosphere or even for other types of signals.  It's definitely in the development stage, but I think there are great possibilities.  

For instance: you could prototype your own circuit board, like you do with SparkFun (it's easy/cheap circuits for you less-geeky peeps ;-) ), and have it transmit a message back to you with, oh-I-don't-know, it's GPS coordinates, the acceleration of the planet it's near, or potentially get atmospheric data from the debris it's flying through.  

I can see myself now...throwing* my mini-chip to the sun to evaluate temperatures there...all by myself...

Think of the possibilities....

*BTW I know this it totally unrealistic, but HEY! I can dream...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Network, Network, Network!

One advantage to being a female in engineering....everyone knows who you are.  They simply pick you out of the crowd.

Now that you have this information, you have two options:

  1. Get to know everyone
  2. Shy away, and be known as that-weird-girl-who-doesn't-talk-to-anyone.
I'm not trying to scare anyone away! However, networking has its advantages (and disadvantages, but we're not going to talk about them here.). 

The cool thing about being social is that you have a ton of engineering friends.  I bring this up for a couple reasons: two days ago, I had a younger engineering friend that needed help with some class....(I have little shame in doing this) but I emailed my friend (who is extremely smart and could definitely help my younger friend) and asked if they could help.  And they did. 

I know a large number of my friends (people in my class) are willing to help other people.  A couple things happen though:
  • the more-senior students don't socialize with less-senior students
  • the less-senior students are afraid to ask
  • the less-senior students don't socialize more-senior students
So there! It breaks the connection, and all student miss out. So three lessons:
  1. Have no shame in asking for help (unless you're being annoying....but chances say you haven't asked yet)
  2. Join Clubs! Get involved in a mentoring program. Eg. Society of Women Engineers (SWE) has a great program to create those connections between more-senior and less-senior students.  It doesn't cost any money to network!
  3. Really get to know your peers. They will start to respect you, and you will respect them.  Help them when they need help.  But make them feel good (and smart) by referring them to other people.
Hope this was helpful! 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Keep your eyes open.

Story Time!

In Spring of 2010, I received an email from the College of Engineering saying, "Dear High Achieving Student, You should apply for this opportunity."  To be honest, there was really no explanation of the program, but it looked cool.  All it required was a maximum two-page essay to talk about my "dreams and aspirations."  Then, the college was going to sort through the essays.

Well, two weeks later, I came down with a cold.  But I said, "No! I'm going to write that two pages about myself." (Tells you how obsessed with myself I am...hahaha)  So on my death bed, I wrote an essay about my aspirations in engineering, and sent in the essay in the morning after proofreading it.  Twenty-four hours later, I get a letter from the College of Engineering saying, "You're our nomination!" Cool!  I don't even know what this program is, but cool!

Two weeks later, I receive an email from the head people for the National Math and Science Initiative.  It basically said the following things:
  • You're the nomination for UC Davis. Cool!
  • You get a mentor...and she's the Vice President of Trading Product Development at Ebay. What?! Totally cool!
  • Oh, did we mention that you get to visit your mentor's work? Um no! But I'm going to Ebay!!!!
  • Finally, you get an all-expense paid trip to New York City for our Capstone Event. Wait, I'm going to New York?! For free???!!! Best two pages ever...
So, I got to do exactly what I mentioned above.  My mentor was an awesome woman.  She was very young, and basically mentored others to move up in the company and develop marketing and consumer tools for Ebay.  Another cool thing about Ebay: free soda from the vending just hit the button, and it comes out!

New York was also cool.  We got to visit Columbia University, Fortune Head Quarters, meet the CSO (Chief Scientific Officer) for Mary Kay, and eat lots of awesome food :-) 

So moral of the story: Never say you aren't qualified for something.  Just give it a shot, and you never know.  You may be the lucky one :-)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Testing (Serena's) Strength

In the Material Performance Laboratory, I had the opportunity to use the Tensile Tester.  Most of the time, I just call it the "Instron."

You basically put a material in the machine, and push or pull until it breaks.  It's actually pretty cool. 

One day, we were having problems with the material breaking in the wrong spot.  So the research committee decided that we need to turn the bolts to 200 ft-lbs.  One day, the graduate student was out and asked me to change the sample.  Think about it: If your lever arm is 1ft long, then you need 200 lbs of force to turn it to the correct amount.  The graduate student lifted weights and played football as a linebacker in high school.  I, on the other hand, ride my bike around Davis and occasionally prance around during my ballet class. What did I do?

To un-do the bolts, I would hang on the torque wrench until I got the torque wrench to read 200 ft-lbs.  I don't advise this for anyone.  This is one time I've felt like a complete girl.  However, it made for a funny story afterward. :-D

Thursday, December 8, 2011

EDM stands for Evil Demon Magic

During my materials research time, I had the opportunity to work on the EDM, or electrical discharge machine. Seen here:
I know, it's a beast.

Basically, the graduate student I was working under said, "Read the operating manual." So I did!
The first words that the manual said, "'You may think that EDM stands for 'Evil Demon Magic.'  But it actually stands for 'Electrical discharge machine.'" I thought this way really funny and credited the Japanese company, Sodick, for having a sense of humor in its technical manuals.

This is how an EDM works:
  • A wire (for this "wire EDM") is strung in water. Don't worry, the water is de-ionized so it doesn't conduct electricity.
  • A large current is passed through the wire.
  • The wire, basically, melts everything in it's path (as long as it's metal)
  • The water washes the melted material away.
Once a grad student told me he stuck his hand in the water to take a picture of the process... I wouldn't recommend this action, but he was living proof that the water doesn't conduct electricity.

Funny story: Once I opened to front door to the EDM while the basin was filled with water.  You know what happened...
Water spilled everywhere! Afterward, my adviser laughed and said that he could never get the door closed after he opened it. I didn't feel so stupid afterward.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Big Machines: They aren't that scary.

I came to college not knowing ANYTHING about manufacturing or combustion engines. For you worry-warts out there: that's okay! A little secret: most of the guys in my classes didn't know either. 

Here's Serena's basics of manufacturing:
  1. What is the design of your part? If the part's feature is circular: use a lathe (like how they make baseball bats!).  If the part is basically cutting away material in straight paths: use a mill or drill press (which makes holes). If it's super intricate, use an EDM (Electric Discharge Machine) but chances are you won't need one right away.
  2. It's all about positioning.  Where does the tool go? Define the paths on paper (or in your head) before you even get CLOSE to a machine.  Easy enough. Actually sounds kinda fun. 
  3. Figure out how the machine (mill, lathe, EDM) works.  A basic shop class will take care of this. Most of the hard work is done in your head. 
  4. Manufacture your part! wasn't that hard! 
Next post: my experience with EDMs and the Intron, a tensile testing machine.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Wes Moore

Part of the Leadership Colloquium at NASA GSFC, I had the opportunity to see Wes Moore speak.  His book, The Other Wes Moore finds parallels between Wes Moore (a Rhodes Scholar) and Wes Moore (a man sentenced to life in prison).  The writer, Wes Moore, evaluates what went "wrong," especially since both of them grew up blocks away from each other in Baltimore and were very troublesome in their early youth.  

Wes's goal is to inspire youth throughout the nation to motivate them to do great.  He says the problem with crime and "bad" neighborhoods is education.  Instead of expecting young men to go to jail, we should raise our expectations of the younger generation, inspiring them to do GREAT things.

I, personally, am going to read the book once I get it from Amazon :-)

However, he inspired me to do something greater... reach out to those who are "wandering."  So today I turned in my application to mentor kids and teenagers.  I'm looking forward to my interview call...

Be Inspiring.

For about a year now, I've wanted to get involved with mentorship programs, especially those involving at-risk or foster youth.  But I haven't had the push.  Well, I saw a speaker today, and it gave me the motivation to finally get some information.  (I will advertise him a little later today.)

I'm hoping to use some of my background to inspire some kids :-)

If you would like to be a Big Sister, click HERE.

Raise your expectations of others.  You'll raise your expectations of yourself.

How cool is that? Rapid Prototyping

I previously mentioned that was able to design and rapid prototype my Malroy part. What is rapid prototyping?
  • It is a technology with places material layer-by-layer to make very intricate parts.
  • Many of these parts cannot be manufactured using your everyday mill, lathe because the parts are too small or too intricate. 
  • It is revolutionary, especially since computers. You can design your own trinkets, jewelry, or use something very specific for a hobby/project.
    • Eg. The Malroy was a way to fit pins and clips together precisely.  I could have created a jig to put the part in, but the pieces are so small that this is hard to do. So my mentor told me to design something using Autodesk Inventor.  I did it in about 2 hours, and I had the part in my hands the next day.
Here's a video to show the cool stuff you can make!

Monday, December 5, 2011


We've officially at 500 hits! We're hoping to expand this in the coming weeks, so be sure to keep visiting! :-)

How It's Made- an Engineer's Dream show

My all time favorite part of watching Mister Rogers' Neighborhood as a kid were the clips where they would go through how things were made. Needless to say, I was ecstatic when the show How It's Made came out on the Discovery Channel.

Here is their website!

And just a few clips that I found to be good study breaks ;)
Football Helmets
Flight Simulators
Sports playlist (from Bowling Ball to Bicycle Frame to...whips??)


MORE Studying Tips!

I noticed Serena posted some Study Habits, but I thought as Finals approach, another reminder might be nice! If you have some study tips, spread the wealth and comment!

Don't know how to start studying? Seven tips:

1. Breath. Drink water. (note: this does not read "do whippits. drink rockstar")
2. Minimize distractions. Turn off the internet, hide your phone, hide yo' kids, hide yo' wife.
3. Re-write your notes (especially science/math/physics classes)
4. Reading Textbooks -- read the intro, read the summary in the back of the chapter, then read the chapter and take notes. Highlight main points, paraphrase paragraphs, etc.
5. Do/re-do homework problems. Take practice tests if they're posted. Do extra problems in the book.
6. Go to office hours with questions.
7. Doodle on your paper. (a.k.a. take breaks! exercise! ENDORPHINS!)

Resources: (May be too late for Finals, but remember this for next quarter!)
1. Office Hours
Best people to ask for help on homework are the people assigning the homework. Look at your notes/homework before going. Write questions if you have them, or listen to other people's questions.
*** if you don't like going to office hours, talk to someone who does. Bonus points if he/she is cute!***

2. Tutoring
i. Student Academic Success Center (SASC) offers drop- in tutoring fo' FREE in math, chem, writing.; also the staff have office hours + old exams/homeworks from previous classes! list of staff:
ii. Tau Beta Pi offers FREE tutoring in lower division Engineering and math classes. Tuesdays, 6-8pm Kemper 1127.

3. Workshops
i. basically extra review sessions. highly recommended for Chem, OChem, Math, Physics. I liked going to these because it allocated a time for me to study, so I couldn't procrastinate. And they gave handouts/info that I didn't hear in lecture, but that I was expected to know on the tests.

4. F is for FRIENDS who do stuff together...
i. like HOMEWORK! Yaaaaaaaaaaaay!
There's a 99% chance that someone in SWE has taken your class. So if you're struggling, ask around and someone will probably be able to help you, maybe give you old exams or something! :)

Happy Monday, and good luck with Finals!!
Ana Ebrahimi
Biomedical Engineer-in-training

Freak out: GRE Scores

I took the GRE in early September.  I spent about 25 hours studying for the GRE, basically practicing all tests in my book :-)

The day came where I took the dreaded test, and I got my scores about 1 month ago.  However, I've been wondering if my scores are high enough. Should I take the test again? Will I get into the school of my dreams? I've been really nervous about my scores for about a month, never bothering to do some online research.

So today, I looked on some message boards. Words of caution: Message board advice needs to be taken with a grain of salt. However, I compared my scores with the old scoring rubric (via percentage tile rankings), and I found out that I did above average (even for my dream school). 

Moral: If you're worried about something, DO SOME RESEARCH (and do it now!). You'll realize what you need to do, instead of worrying about factors you can't control.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


For the past year or so, I've been reading some classics that I never cared about in high school. I didn't like reading until I got to college.  Last summer, I read Frankenstein, and I thought it was so wonderful! Here's why I thought it was awesome:

Frankenstein was written during the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment is one of the best eras for us scientists and engineers, because this is when the scientific method started to evolve.  There wasn't as large of a reliance on God, and some people started to take a Deist approach on the universe.  Without a large part of the research during the Scientific Revolution, many of us would not have the iPhone that we have today.

Professor Frankenstein wanted to be the creator, not the observer.  He attempted to replicate life, and ended up making something so ugly, nobody wanted anything to do with it.

It discusses the morality behind science. Should we attempt to better human life? Or should we just let it be? There are implications to our research, even though they may not be intended.  Look at the movie I am Legend. Such a fantastic, modern day approach this.

Frankenstein goes beyond your classic horror movie. It really delves into the relationship between life and science and is a warning for us.  There is philosophy behind science, whether or not you want to believe it. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Marian Koshland Museum

Today, I had the opportunity to visit the Science Museum of the National Academy of Science (that I previously talked about HERE). AND IT WAS TOTALLY COOL!

Initial Impression: Small museum and only has touch screens.
    I will have to admit: when I see touch screens at a museum, I just want to walk past.  
But then I sat down at one of the exhibits:
     AND IT WAS TOTALLY COOL! One of the exhibits put me in charge of reducing America's CO2 emissions.
     First, I marked which categories were  my "priorities" such as low cost, environment, petroleum independence.... Then I had to figure out which industries would reduce the CO2 while maintaining my priorities.  Basically, I learned that it's going to cost quite a bit of money to revamp our energy policy (well, I guess that's kinda a no-duh).  Also, it made me sad that nuclear energy wasn't an entirely viable option (I am a supporter), but it would be with some money :-)

There was also an interactive involving HIV/AIDS and the pushing to get rid of it.  They had a cool video which talked about the current drugs which stop certain parts of the virus from pushing on.  They even talked about future drugs need to do to create a vaccine.
     Did you know: in 1998, it was estimated that nearly 40% of the people in Botswana had contracted HIV?  And they've been able to reduce that amount with simple prevention techniques! 

This exhibit included talk of prevention: with most viruses/epidemics, one of the best things to do is prevention, not treating the disease! It was an interesting perspective.

Final Impression: the interactive touch screens are probably the best in a museum I have ever seen.  Kids would definitely like this just need to get past the size of the museum because there is a lot of valuable information that the museum gives.

So if you are in Washington DC, be sure to check out the museum.  It was well worth the $3 (price for students).

Link to the Museum's Website

When you're feeling blue...

There are times where you are just feeling down. It could be related to school, life, work, or maybe nothing! Often your productivity gets shot, but you still gotta push on.  

My Go-To's: 

Coffee: Usually good if my productivity is down, and I need something to get a jump start.  I started drinking coffee lately, and my sad times have definitely decreased. Maybe they should start prescribing coffee for depression...

Saturn Rings/Peachy-O's: Just enough sugar to get me going, and think about how I got to NASA.  You look up at the stars and wonder, "Who am I in this vast universe?".  Just don't eat candy while you are hungry: It can cause major sugar crashes and headaches, which are never good.

Working Out/Dancing: Getting your adrenaline going often helps you to worry about something else.  I love coming back from my modern class feeling better and ready to tackle my homework problems.  

Chilling with Friends: Another diversion technique.  Resist the urge to rant about your classes or he or she.  Just sit around and watch stupid youtube videos.  Or watch a movie, and make fun of the characters.  Do something to get your mind off of school.

Sleeping can be evil sometimes.  I'll lie awake, worried about everything. And in the morning I'll feel even more anxious than I am now.

What are you favorite stress relievers/pick-me-ups?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Reason for Blogging

Hi Everyone,

So I've read some of the comments to my blog, and I read that some of the male readers indicate that it isn't purely "female." 

You're right! The purpose of this blog is to do a few things
  • Show that female STEM students exist and are active in the STEM community
  • Encourage other females about STEM fields
  • Give light to fun STEM topics (whether they be feminine or not) 
The purpose of this is not to exclude anyone.  In fact, I often promote this blog to my male colleagues as well as my social science friends.   

I encourage you to leave comments regarding material, including ways we can improve this blog to fit your needs.  Also, I encourage you to email me if you would personally like to contribute.

I hope you enjoy the posts we've had so far, and thank you for reading! 
Serena C.

New York City, New York

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to see the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

It got me thinking about the huge marketing advantage that Macy's have. The city was absolutely packed.  Basically, if you can sell the idea of Christmas, you can make some money.

What are the balloons filled with? Helium! After my internship this past summer, I was able to know the politics with Helium.  Basically, the US has the largest reserves of Helium in the world, and the world is running out....quickly.  You're soon gunna see all of the Helium skyrocket in price! 

So what's going to happen with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade? Three things can happen:
  • Macy's will pay for the expensive helium
  • Macy's will get rid of the balloons (this would greatly damage their image and marketing power)
  • Macy's will fill the balloons with Hydrogen...which we all flammable (this may also destroy some of the supporters of the parade).
According to Wikipedia (I know...what a source.), 2006 saw a helium price increase.  So the organizers decided to reduce the amount of balloons.  Still...I don't know what they are going to do...

Dalai Lama

I love this posting! It's the Dalai Lama's 18 Rules for Living. I hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Making Things Look Pretty: Formatting

One of my favorite things about the computer is the ability to format. As you can tell, I love italics.  It makes everything stand out. :-)

Formatting becomes very important in many instances: papers, posters, presentations, resumes, this blog...So here are my tips!

Pictures are worth 1000 words.  I don't care if you are an English major or not: people do not like to read. Use your text to describe what your pictures are saying.

Make your own graphics! You don't need to be a graphic artist to do this.  Paint is awesome...and the new Windows 7 Paint is even awesome-r.  Take advantage of the zoom tool. If you hate Paint: use MS Word/Powerpoint and create a "New Drawing Canvas".  If you are able to, maybe take a look at Photoshop; my last lab had the program, and I started to use it for precise calculations on our drawings.

Empty space is your best friend.  Empty space is a sign of cleanliness, organization, and intelligence.  Imagine Einsteins's home office. Is it a mess? Or is it pristine with books surrounding a big comfy chair with a simple lamp in the middle?  Intelligent people are seen as clean (whether or not they are).  So keep your publications and works of art clean.

Use fonts, bold, italics, and underlines.  It helps to make things standout, similar to what I do here.

And for your papers/publications: Use EndNote! A few graduate students told me about this program.  I initially blew off their advice until I had about 20 sources.  You usually can download the program for free from your school's website.  However, it takes a little getting used to.  After a full semester of writing about 6 extensive papers with figures, tables, and (not to mention) sources, the program was able to organize them very neatly.  You can also look up a book/journals ISBN from the Library of Congress, and it'll format the Bibliography for you! Final tip: look up a journal using Google; usually you'll be able to download the citation STRAIGHT into your EndNote about a time saver.

Hope this helped :-) If you have any questions, feel free to write in the comments or email me.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Poster Sessions vs. Presentations

I don’t know if any of you have ever done a poster session before at a conference or anything similar, but it’s one of my favorite kinds of presentations. Today the NASA interns had their "End of the internship poster session" where we basically just talked about all of the research we did through the entire semester.

What's a poster session you may ask? Well it's just like you would imagine: a bunch of interns with their posters standing around ready to answer any question that the invited guests ask. You don't have to prepare flashcards, or a speech, or really anything. All you have to do is know your project inside and out (which sometimes is not an easy task).

Personally though, I like powerpoint presentations better because you can anticipate what questions you will be asked easier. Those take more practice to actually engage people into listening to you ranting about your research for a while, but once you get down a routine it's a snap. Powerpoints eliminate the awkwardness that's at a poster session when someone is just reading your research and you're standing there smiling and thinking "do I look like an absolute crazy person smiling and standing here??".

So what's the moral of this post? Basically presentations are scary until you get used to them no matter what the format. If you're going to be in a field where research is the main goal, then you need to know how to engage people and persuade them into thinking your topic is the most interesting stuff they've ever seen. How do you do this? PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE! My mentor last year told me to make as many presentations as I can whether it be at school, during school clubs, ResLife, at work or wherever. Just practice explaining your point and getting people interested. Today was my 3rd poster session and my 4th one will be in April. Of course I feel more comfortable during Powerpoints because I've been doing them since freshman year of high school. But see? That's because I've been practicing.

Well that's my advice for tonight. Now I have to get to bed so I can write a boring paper that's due next Friday. Wish me luck!

Taking a Look Back: High School

High school is a very difficult time to imagine your future self.  My high school experience consisted of colorguard and school.  That was my life.  I hated being at school, and would often want to go home to finish my homework. However, my peers and I would often dream about our potential in college or even after college.

I distinctly remember when a good friend and I were sitting in Mr. H's Junior AP English class, discussing college admissions.  "If I don't get into college, I'm gunna have LOTS of babies and go on welfare!" We were very nervous about our potential to get into the University of California system, even with our grades at the time. Our teacher simply laughed at our future "plans" and said, "You'll get into college. Don't worry about it." (Well, we did, and now we're rocking our respective UC campuses.)

In the same class (different day), the same friend was discussing my career prospects. "Serena! When you go work for NASA, will you name something after me?"  I basically scoffed at my idea of working for the glorious organization, and said, "Sure, I'll name something after you." To be honest, it was an empty promise at the time.  However after a few years at the university, I started to realize my potential in the "real world," and the words of the promise started to take hold.

This past July, I was offered to intern at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.  I visited my good friend in August, and I told her that if I did, in fact, design something, I would name it after her (but only her nickname that she hated, hehehe).

Two weeks into my NASA internship, I got to design and build something.  It's basically rapid prototyped (you should look it up! it's totally cool!).

This is the part I created.  I added some 80-esq to it to give it some flavor.  And I named it "Malroy." It is used to hold my experimental samples while gluing them with the adhesive (I'll be sure to add my research later.).

Now it's really funny looking back.  You never realize where you are going to be in 5 years.  I currently wonder where I'm going to be 5 years from now.  But similar things will probably happen if I continue to work hard and be excited about what I do.  I hope this story is inspirational.  I do admit that it IS true.

Marketing Yourself: Part II

It doesn't how smart you are.  If you cannot market yourself, you are nothing! 

I was sitting around the NASA intern lunch table, and one of the interns was talking about his application for grad school application for Bio-physics.  However, he didn't know how to write his statement because it asked for all of his internship and research experience and how it's related to biology.  He told us about his research regarding space dust, and then ended up saying, "I'm not gunna get into grad school."

What should one do in this situation? 

Well first of all, he totally procrastinated on the application.  It's due in 3 days. Don't procrastinate on applying for a program that's going to take at least 2 years of your life.  It just doesn't make sense.

Talk about your experience.  Everyone has stories, regardless if it's related to whatever!  You'll have experience relevant to what you are going to be doing in your job/graduate lab.  Sure, it wasn't bio related.  But are you going to be collect samples? Yes. Are you going to work in a team? Yes.  Are you going to organize your data into a report? Yes!  If this isn't relevant to graduate school, I don't know what is.

Talk about your journey to today. You didn't just decide to go to grad school yesterday (well I hope you didn't). Why are you going to grad school? There has to be a reason! 

What difference do you want to make in the world?  People who read applications like doing so because they see themselves. It helps to remind themselves of the hope that the younger generation sees.  Be like Obama: promote the CHANGE for this world.

It's really hard to brag while writing.  I recently read essays for a high school scholarship.  There was one applicant who said, "I did ___. And I did ___.  Oh, I also did ___."  Sure, the essay was poorly executed.  But I didn't know anything about those activities unless they told me.  If you say, "I'm awesome," that's bragging.  But mostly likely you are just stating the facts.  Make the reader say, "Wow, that applicant has potential" by showing off a little.

*Update: I found this website that gives you advice on admission essays, regardless of which admission. The link is found HERE

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How To Succeed in Engineering: Dimensional Analysis and Tables

There have been too many instances where people in my engineering classes do NOT understand dimensional analysis or tables.  Sure, you may know how to do these things, but you need to be AWESOME at these things.  Some of you may not know what I'm talking about.  So let's have an introduction:

Dimensional Analysis
 I’ve loved dimensional analysis since middle school!  When I was 13, I could recite a TON of conversions (shows you how nerdy I was).  Here are some examples:

Convert 12 miles to meters.

If you buy a sweater that is $24, but 35% off, how much is the sweater?
Most people don’t know how to do these problems, at least not easily. 

Tips for the trade:
A dimension is a unit, which is like a number.  You can reduce the following: 5/5=1.  Well you can also do the following:  or  .

Think about other possibilities.  For instance,  .

Think about the unit actually represents.  Like area is just a two-dimensional length.  Volume is three-dimensional length.  Acceleration is the time derivative of speed which is the time derivative of length.  Okay, sure that was a little confusing.  But think about the bigger picture.  Here is a cool video to show you what I mean: Imagining the 10th Dimension.

Now about half (yes ½) of my upper division thermodynamics class was spent teaching us how to read tables.  And still people failed that class.  Sure, thermo goes beyond reading tables, but if you can’t read a table accurately, you are going to make silly mistakes on your tests.  And tests are your entire grade!

Tips for the trade:
Read lots of tables!  Like train tables!  I love sitting down and just looking at all the different times and thinking of different possibilities.  Another lame thing I like to do: read tables in the backs of textbooks.  It comes with surprises!  For instance, I found the specific heat for chicken and cake in the back of my Heat Transfer book.  Now, you can’t tell me THAT’s not interesting.

Use two pieces of paper to track your points.  Use one horizontally and the other vertically.  It’ll also help so you don’t strain your eyes.

Mark your point lightly with a pencil.  This has saved me many times.  Sometimes I’ll look back over the test and realize 1) my pencil point is in the wrong spot 2) I wrote down the number wrong.  It honestly helps you.

This whole blog post may seem like a "well, duh Serena."  But I'm telling you! Even my supervisors at my internships have converted wrong!  Be awesome at conversions, and then you can worry about the real "engineering."

Monday, November 28, 2011

Marketing Yourself (and your company)

So Simon Sinek came to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center a few weeks ago.  At first, I was very skeptical.  However, I do enjoy learning about the science of manipulation by reading things such as Malcolm Gladwell or taking a basic psychology course.  You learn a lot about yourself and others and how you could/should function in this world.

I will have to say that is argument is valid.  Here's why:

1) He's pretty cute.  But sorry ladies; from what I know, he has a girlfriend.  

2) We rely heavily on our feelings...especially us women.  For instance, it takes me a very long time to get over an initial bad feeling about someone.  I admit, it's hard to trust this person personally.  Sometimes my intuition is correct, sometimes its not.  Usually if I'm right, I'll find out fairly quickly and say, "I knew it!" 

I don't want to ruin his book/ TEDx presentation. Feel free to investigate for yourself. :-D

Example of Engineering Women

UC Davis has been in the news for the past week or so, and there has been quite a push for the Chancellor's resignation.  However, many of us believe that it is not her fault, but it is her responsibility to stand up for the students.  Chancellor Katehi is a model of leadership for many of us engineering women, and I support her fully.

If you would like the sign the petition, click on the link HERE

This is probably the only politically leaning thing I will post.  However, it is something I will stand for. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Next Mars Land Rover- Curiosity

So I don't know about everyone else, but I'm totally excited for the next edition of Mars Discovery- Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity. It's five times as large as the previous rovers and contains ten times the instruments.   It is mainly looking for the ingredients for life:like methane and microbial life.  Launch is planned for Saturday, and it won't land on Mars until NEXT AUGUST!!!  If you are doing nothing on Saturday, make sure to watch the launch! For more information, click HERE.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

National Academies

So I don't know how many of you have even heard of the US National Academies.  Yeah, me neither until I came to Washington DC. BUT! through my research of trying to find a job in DC, I realized how awesome the academies are!  Here's an overview:

There are 4 Academies: National Academy of Science, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council.

They are honorary service organizations. Basically, you need to be nominated to get into the "club."  Isn't that cool?!

A main point of the Academies is to educate the public.  It's great that there's an organization with 300 Nobel Laureates (that's right! 300!) to come together and get other people excited about science.

They help to consult the US Government on matters involving science (with means pretty much anything). So those people within the academy have a duty to show their view on the scientific matters.

The Academies publish about 200 reports every year. These reports help to influence public policy.  Think, you could write a report on, say, obesity, and the it's possible that this would get the attention of the media and Congress.  If interested in the up-and-coming trends of engineering, this may be a good resource.  

For more information, visit the National Academies.  Check it out, there may be something that peaks yoru interest. I'm also thinking of a field trip in the near future. :-)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Who Do You Aspire to Be?

I've found that one of the greatest sources of aspiration lies from someone else's achievements.

Who do you aspire to be? 
Senior Director?
Someone who has a patent?

How much respect do you give to these people?  Despite the growing suspicion against authority and those people who have "titles," you know that these people get a LOT of respect.  To be honest, I want to be one of these people.

One of the things on my bucket list is to have a patent.  Currently, UC Davis' Chancellor Linda Katehi has 17 patents.  Crazy!!! To be honest, I don't care if it gets popular.  I just want to be the person who invents something that I perceive to be useful.

After College

College is all about preparing you for the "real world."  A graduate student once described to me that the engineering classes that you take is a "new tool for your toolbox."  I love this interpretation!!! Again, engineering is able solving new problems...not having them solved for you in school.  From one of my favorite bloggers, here is a link to what you don't learn in college. Check it out. :-)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Baltimore, MD

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to visit Baltimore.  It's about 30 miles from Washington DC.  However, it's an entirely different city in terms of industry.  I would describe it as similar to Detroit (as quoted by one of the friends, "Baltimore is Detroit 30 years ago.") with its aging of manufacturing.  It should be noted that the unemployment rate of young men (under 30 or so) is 30%.  This is very similar to the Great Depression. This is what happens when you move from manufacturing to a very technological age.

I do wish to note that Baltimore did remind me why my major is in mechanical engineering.  Manufacturing is a great industry. It truly shows a country's economic development.  There are so many different products that we encounter everyday, and we don't even think twice about how the item came to be in my hands.

Look at all the factories! Think about the number of people needed for this type of work.  I don't care if something is animated.  You still need people to organize other people and machinery to make something in a very quick, efficient way.  The transportation, manufacturing, food, beverages, movement of money, movement of raw materials, the energy needed to conduct all of this business! To be honest, I don't think the importance of engineering is marketed enough, especially in the country that we live in! We now have the ability to rely on other service items for our source of "innovation."  But our true innovation relies on the manufacturing that still exists today.  Sure, I know it's on the decline.  However, if you lose your backing of manufacturing, the country needs to rely on other countries for its sustenance.

From my manufacturing class, the three tiers of a economy:
1. Agriculture
2. Manufacturing
3. Service

Currently, the United States has moved more into the service industry.  However, it is reliant on those countries in the other two tiers.  Think about where America stand and your role in it as a proud member.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


I think this post will be devoted to nerdy things I find throughout the week.

"Newton and Gauss created everything.  Everyone else is simply tweaking what they said." - Professor Rocke

This last one is actual due to the amount of protest from the group on Facebook called "Trust me, I'm an Engineer."  Although a little bit borderline, I'm glad that someone (a female) updated the picture to show that there ARE female engineers out there. Grassroots at work.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Get your hands dirty- Student Projects

Student projects are a great way to learn how to work with others on an engineering projects.  Those open ended problems will always exist.  However, one of things I have learned from a student design project is it's all about money. If you aren't able to market yourself, you won't be able to get funding for your project.  It doesn't matter how revolutionary it is- it probably isn't anyway- but if you aren't able to obtain funding, you don't succeed.

Student projects also give you the capability to truly understand the resources that you have at your disposal.  At my school for instance, we have a student machine shop where students can fabricate pretty much anything they design- as long as you know how. Now, this gives you the ability to view design from the view of a manufacturer, but it also gives you the capability to greatly reduce your overhead. 

Finally, you create a lot of good friendships and networking skills along the way.  You understand who your friends are (and aren't), as well as being able to create and maintain company contacts (these are the people you are asking for money).

Just get involved in something related to this, because it is VERY worthwhile to see what the "real world" is like before you actually experience it.

Friday, November 18, 2011

To Wear or Not to Wear?

Being a girl in a male-dominated field makes me very nervous to wear anything flattering to school.  This could be heels (but who would wear heels to school), boots, skirts, shorts, or even dresses.  When I walk into the computer lab for engineers, I often feel like I'm being looked at.  When I walk into other computer labs or classrooms on campus, though, I feel as if it's the norm.

This often comes as a dilemma.  I know many of us girls wear flattering clothing because it's cute, it's fashionable, or we just feel like wear a dress! However, every time I want to wear something along these lines, I think about the perceptions from teachers or other classmates.  I often feel like they would think I'm dressing up to impress either another guy or teacher, whether or not it's my actual intention.  

There are often instances where I will choose not to wear something flattering if I have an appointment with a professor to simply insure that I'm not being a potential flirt. (I'm not talking about when I work in the lab and need to be wearing long pants and tennis shoes for safety reasons.) 

Do other people feel this way? Should I monitor the way I dress to make sure I don't "come off wrong" to male peers or professors? Or am I being too-self conscious?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Study Habits 101

One of the hardest things to do in engineering is getting an A.  Sure, it could easier because you enjoy learning about it.  And some would argue that getting A’s in engineering is overrated (there are some reasons for this, but many of them don’t make sense).  However, there are just those classes that you don’t get.  So below are Serena’s Ways to Getting A’s, based on her own strategy.  Someone told me I should write a book about my strategy; I guess this is close enough.  Disclaimer: I’m not promising this to anyone.  But your grades will rise if you are disciplined enough.

Work a 40 hour week.  I adopted this when I actually had 20 units, aka 20 hours of school per week.  Say, on average, you have school (class and office hours) for 4 hours per day, you would only need to study about 4 hours per day.  To be honest, this isn’t a lot of time.  If you do this, you’ll find out how much time you waste now.

Write down your study hours.  Be honest with yourself!  If you actually didn’t study, don’t write down those hours.  At the end of the week, you will either say, “Wow, I should/could have done more!”

Devote study time for studying.  I know this sounds stupid.  However, anytime you look around the library, I guarantee that about ¼ of the people are on facebook.  Just study now, and get it over with!

Set a time goal.  Instead of saying, “I’ll get my paper/homework/project done today,” say, “In two hours, I will have XYZ done.” Treat it is as real deadline.  Although you probably won’t get it all done, you still devoted those two hours to work, instead of meddling around on facebook.

Create a large To-Do list.  This only works for people that really like to see everything they have to do.  I love seeing how many things I can cross off my list.  I leave school at 5 and say, “Wow, I did a lot today.”

Separate school from home.  Many people study at home.  I understand this.  But psychology says that we can separate the mindsets.  Do all of your work in the library/lab/classroom/office.  Then go home at the end of the day, and leave your school-mind at school.  This really helped me with my school-anxiety, and I probably will never study at home again (unless I absolutely have to pull an all-nighter).

Do all of your homework…by the time it’s “due.”  I know that a lot of classes don’t have homework that’s “due.”  However, make your “due date” the day/time of the professor’s/TA’s office hours.  This keeps you accountable with the weekly stuff, and you’ll only have to review it when it comes time for the midterm.

Go to office hours.  Don’t just go to office hours; be prepared for office hours!  Ask lots of questions- annoying questions. (Well don’t actually be annoying, but if you don’t “get it,” say so!!!)   Have your questions ready!  Understand every component of the problem/solution before you ask your question.  Then if the TA says, “well I would do ____,” you can counter it with, “I already did that.”

If you don’t understand something, find the question in the book and complete similar questions.  Another thing people don’t do.  This is why you paid $150 for that textbook!  You didn’t spend the money to do 10 problems.  Instead of just giving up, ask your TA/professor about those similar questions; it may just ring a bell on that previous question.

Make office-hour friends.  Usually the people at office hours (like the ones that go religiously, like you should be doing) are working just as hard, if not harder, than YOU.  I have a couple of these friends (they are rare).  But once, an office-hour friend and I figured out the solution to a problem with the TA there.  The TA literally had no clue.  It was a great moment. 

Make friends with your professor.  Now this is helpful for people of any caliber.  I don’t mean for you to smooze with your professor.  I strongly dislike these people.  However, think about it from a professor’s perspective.  If she’s never seen you before, she probably won’t feel bad when she gives you a D or F…or even that B+.  If you show your face and look excited about the subject, the professor is going to relate to you.  They may say, “Well, she probably had a bad testing day.”  INSTANT GRADE BOOST!  I’m not saying all professors are like this, but they are less likely to be cruel if they at least recognize you.

I hope this helps.  If you would like me to elaborate or if you have critiques, let me know.:-)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Intro to me :)

Hello everyone,

Remember in elementary school when they had all the little kids paint by numbers, with every part a designated color and a warning not to go outside the lines? Conformity at its simplest? I was never very good at that.

I am currently a Sophomore of Senior status (due to number of credits) at UC Davis completing my Mechanical Engineering and Aerospace Engineering double major and I’m probably going to be tacking on a minor onto that sometime in the near future. I’ve always been the one who constantly had her nose buried in some sci-fi novel and when it came time for me to start thinking what I wanted to do with my life there was only one thing I could think of; reading about inventions beyond my time and heroines whose willpower and imagination had been the driving force behind the change they set in motion.   I wanted to be that change, I wanted to be the one making the technological transition forward and making a difference in the world.

Once I made my choice the rest was simply a means of reaching my goal. I have been taking college courses throughout my high school years, but my senior year I took a full load of college courses on top of my high school classes and job and therefore completed most of my prerequisites needed for the majority of the lower division engineering courses. I graduated at 16 and came to UC Davis a little bit younger and less experienced than my peers but with twice the drive and motivation. I started getting involved with various engineering clubs where I met Serena who became my mentor through the Society of Women Engineers and who has been like a true sister to me this past year. I started Aggie Micro Aeronautics team and got to help build and compete an airplane last year.

Just a little background on me as a person before I delve further into what I’m doing now: I’m vegan, love to cook, and have dance experience in bboying/hip hop/popping/Iranian/Bollywood/salsa. I’m a gym junkie and a Bodyrocker (for any other fans out there). I love drawing; I like to think of my sketchbook as just another body part that needs to be lugged around. I practically live in the sci fi/fantasy section at Barnes and Noble. I love Korean and Japanese dramas and am constantly getting addicted to various mangas. I’ve cycled through a zillion different hobbies and have the attention span of a squirrel.  I love building things; I’d like to think that I’ve improved from my Lego creations (sound effects included) to being on the design team Aerobrick today (although I still play with Legos. Fact). Oh and I am constantly losing things (my mind. Ha).


Last summer I got a position at Autodesk as a Student Expert. I received training with them over the summer in various programs and now work on campus helping other students learn design and modeling software. Me and two others I work with then created a club called 3DMD (3D Modeling and Design) for which I am the president. We host workshops on campus and provide online tutorials weekly (which have yet to be uploaded as we have been prioritizing workshops but which will be available soon) on We also provide Office Hours and online help and basically act as a resource for students like ourselves who also want to take the initiative and learn the software to help with their engineering careers.

A month or two ago I submitted a project for, and got the role of, leading the new Autodesk Marketing Campaign (not sure how specific I’m allowed to be about this) and got to have a photoshoot! (Kinda sad how excited I was about that but what can I say, it’s a little girl’s dream). I worked weeks on my project and got to incorporate all the crazy things I read about and dreamt up in my spare time. I think it’s the first time I’ve had the opportunity to incorporate my own personality and inspirations into a piece and it turned out to be the most fun I’d ever had designing it. I loved that once I was approved, they gave my full reign to be as creative as I pleased and that for once I wasn’t worried about “painting by numbers.” It’s really been an eye opening experience and probably the reason I’m adding a minor in something related. I’ll post a pic of the final rendering once I get the go ahead ^_^.

So that’s me. I’m trying to balance classes, 2 jobs, officer positions, the new club, dance, the Autodesk position, Aerobrick (airplane design team) and the rest of my crazy life. I’m not exactly sure if I’m succeeding but I don’t think I’d have it any other way. I finally found something I think is right for me and I’m not going to let it slip from my grasp.


Nassim R.