Saturday, November 12, 2011

Why would I? Undergraduate Research

I'm a huge advocate of undergraduate research.  Now, you're probably asking, "Why would I ever go into undergraduate research? I don't want to be a professor.  Why would I want to go to grad school with an engineer's salary?  No more school! I don't want to go into R&D. I don't know enough about a subject."  I've heard ALL of the excuses- I was there about 3 years ago.  So here are my top 10 reasons of why YOU  should do undergraduate research.

1. Get GREAT letters of recommendations from professors. You're going to need letters of rec regardless of where you go (unless you graduate and go sit on the couch). If you do work for them, they'll actually find out how motivated and awesome you are, and this will enable them to write a very extensive letter about YOU.

2. Learn about what graduate school is really like. I knew a lot about graduate school before I started research, but you get to interact with graduate students.  Grad school isn't all school (as many think).  It involves writing, experiments, code, and a ton of interacting with other students and professors. It's definitely not a task for the weary, but you may find that graduate school is actually for you.

3. Learn about an in-depth subject.  I knew nothing about materials when I started in the Material Performance Laboratory.  I've gained more knowledge from cleaning and sanding down samples for endless hours, rather than hear my professor talk about the mechanical capabilities of his car.  I've been able to see stress-strain curves develop before my eyes, and I've helped to solve problems on the go!  There's now a TON I know about the cyclic stresses on an airplane, and every time I take a flight somewhere, I explain to them about the material stresses on the cabin!

4. Rule out things you don't like. I've realized a lot about what I want and DON'T want in graduate school or, even, in the working world.  This is a very harm-free way of doing this.

5. Have something on your resume. The economy's tough right now.  It's very difficult to get internships, especially if you are a freshman or sophomore.  Sure, you probably won't get paid.  But this will be a GREAT way to get engineering experience and contacts with little risk.

6. It's possible to get Technical Elective credit. One less class I have to take? Sign me up!

7. Get your hands dirty.  I used to love coming out of the lab with grease on my hands.  I felt like I actually accomplished something and be one of the few students that can actually use tools.

8. Get mistaken for a graduate student. There have been many instances where I've been mistaken for a graduate student.  It makes you feel very confident about your work (even though you probably don't know much), and other students look up to you! Another perk: free coffee at the Graduate Student Union- don't worry, I was invited, and nobody could tell the difference.

9. Have something to talk about. Many engineering students ramble on about this lab report or this code or that professor. Be excited about your research, and other people will get excited around you.  It definitely is a change of pace from the day-to-day routine.

10. Present or publish your research before you graduate! Employers absolutely love to see that you can speak in public. It's not what you said. It's how many people you spoke to at once. Also, who wouldn't want their name all over a paper! Sure, you may not think it's a big deal, but graduate schools and employers LOVE to see that you can communicate effectively.

Now that I got you excited about undergraduate research, I will post about how to obtain a research position in the near future.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Inspirations- Marie Curie

One of my greatest inspirations for science is Marie Curie.  She is one of the few women who has really shown her talent and hard work.   But Madame Curie has led the way for women to revolutionize science.

From what I've read, Marie and her husband (Pierre) received a set of bicycles as a wedding present.  They conducted their science experiments together, and when things got tough in the lab, they would de-stress by riding through the streets of Paris for hours on end. How romantic!

However, I would argue that Pierre helped to create this female revolution.  When he and Henri Becquerel were offered the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903, Pierre refused the reward unless the committee included his wife, who stood next to him conducting the experiments. I want a husband like him.  She became the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize.

A few years later, Pierre was killed by a horse-drawn wagon (what a way to die!), and Marie took his place as a Professor of General Physics in the Faculty of Sciences at Sorbonne in Paris.  Again, she was the first woman to hold this position.  Her hard work really stood out.

In 1911, she received the Nobel Prize again, but this time in Chemistry.  She become the first person to receive two Nobel Prizes.  Afterward, she went on to promote science within federal governments and use radium for therapeutic purposes.

In 1934, Marie died of aplastic anemia due to her radiation exposure from experiments.  She is definitely a woman to devote herself to her work. 

Today, many of us women are criticized for being put into positions for simply "being a woman."  However, Madame is an example that we, too, can be exemplary in our work to show that women are equal, if not better, in STEM. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

GPA isn't everything

Hello all!

I'm a recent graduate from UC Davis as a double major for Mechanical and Aeronautical engineering. Currently I'm interviewing with multiple companies while continuing to work at the full time job I maintained in college as well as doing research in the Materials Performance Laboratory on campus.

Inspirations for Engineering: I've always been a bit more rough-and-tumble and hands on than most girl's I've ever met. I was always good at puzzles and solving problems when I found any. I spent a good deal of time growing up working on cars or fixing any problems that occurred around the house for my mom. In graduating from high school, I had developed a strong fascination with space and flight, so in applying to U.C. Davis I applied into the aeronautics program.

Developing my goals: As I moved my way through the classes I had in college, I found that I was more interested in making the world a better place than in new and innovative creations. I wanted to come home at the end of every day feeling like I made a difference in the world. Senior year, I met another female engineer who became a close friend who was working in the Materials Performance Laboratory on campus. I was a student of the research professor she had, and realized that this was where I belonged: fatigue testing to ensure the safety of the material. At this time, I transferred into the double major to Mechanical engineering to supplement my Aeronautical engineering. I highly recommend this to all Aeronautics students (it's two more classes for Mechanical as a second major.)

Difficulties along the way: Freshman year I took up a dispatching job in Sacramento in order to help pay for college. I had no financial help from home, and was left on my own to pay my own bills, my tuition, and to help pay bills for my family. I worked full time all four years, would spend free time helping my mom at home with home repairs, and was able to graduate in four years with no loans. However, the major drawback was my GPA. Having a GPA below a 3.0 is extremely detrimental to any engineer, as there are quite a few companies that will not even consider a resume of these "below par" standards. Having a resume handed back is the worst feeling. I felt as though no one cared that I spent the last four years working, not screwing around, as the reason for a lower GPA.

Looking on the bright side: Instead of letting this get me down, I continued to work my full time job and research position after I graduated. Thanks to the motivation from friends, I attended the career fair in fall. This was possibly the smartest decision I've made in college (no exaggeration). I handed out eight resumes at the career fair, and got three interviews, one of which called back for a second interview that I will be attending later this month. None of these companies cared that my GPA was a little lower. They saw my drive and motivation to support myself and stay positive in a situation as unique as mine*.
*Only 0.001% of students support themselves through college without parental or family help and graduate with no loans

For the future: I intend on continuing to apply for jobs that I feel I would want to have as a career, and will continue to attend campus career fairs to help me succeed in that. Remember: every cover letter anyone writes will more likely than not be skimmed, not thoroughly read. Meeting recruiters in person at career fairs gives you the opportunity to really show a company who you are and why you should work there.

  1. I cannot emphasize this enough: GO TO CAREER FAIRS. 
  2. Write a resume and cover letter specific to each and every job you apply to (career fairs do not require cover letters, but make a specific engineering resume).
  3. Be yourself, not the person you think they want (trust me, they can tell)
  4. Join a club or get a research position, even if the position is volunteer. Email every professor you have every quarter/semester at the beginning of the session to ask if any need help or volunteers in their work. Someone will say yes, and it will be extremely helpful when applying to jobs.
  5. Make friends. You may think you can pass all of your classes alone, but being friendly with your classmates will pay off in the long run.
  6. Be social! Don't be shy of strangers, and always talk to whoever you sit next to in class. It's good practice for getting rid of nervousness before interviews and speaking with recruiters.
  7. And finally, NEVER let anyone tell you that you aren't good enough, that you won't make it, or that it will be hard for you to find an opportunity. Instead, use it as motivation to work harder. The harder you strive, the stronger your character, and the more people will want you to work for them.
Best of luck to you all with the future.


Danielle Fogg