Saturday, January 28, 2012

Symmetry: Why Engineering is for Men

There is one particular shirt I have in the closet, and the first time I wore it, I don't know how many guys (brother, friends, boyfriend, father) asked me where the other strap went.  Let's show a demonstration:

I thought that this was maybe a joke put on by the guys around me, until I asked guys, "What do you think when you see this shirt?" Most of them answer the same thing as above.  So point proven.

Maybe this is why guys enjoy engineering...everything is about symmetry.  But in their minds, they think about the following Free Body Diagram:

But how does the shirt stay up? This is why guys are so hesitant about the situation...What holds the shirt up?! But our Free Body Diagram isn't complete...

YAY! We didn't break Statics!
 The pressure from the elastic helps to allow the moments on the shirt. Now the free body diagram is complete.

And that is engineering for you.  Maybe the gals do have it figured out :-P

*Image courtesy of and Serena's wonderful drawing skills via Microsoft Powerpoint.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Prerequisites: Get a head start on college today

What are Prerequisites? 

These are the "stepping stones" every major forces you to take before you can actually get around to taking courses you'll use. For engineers these are classes like the chem series, mathematics, that one english course everyone has to take, etc.

What most people don't realize when first applying to colleges or transferring is what a benefit it is to have most of them finished before entering your university of choice.

Between community college courses and AP tests I got to knock out a whole two years worth of credits when I first came to Davis and therefore entered as a "junior" in credits. In addition I had most of my engineering prereq's done and therefore got to jump straight into courses that interested me without having my GPA murdered by the 21and 22 series (the math courses up to Differentials here at Davis required for engineering).

So for you high school students or even students planning on transferring, try to get these out of the way ahead of time. High schoolers-take AP tests. You don't need the class to take them, there are plenty of books out there to help. I'm not suggesting you sign up for them all and take them like M &M's; take the ones you feel confident that you will score high in because ultimately the scores will determine if it will be accepted as course credit or not.

For transfer or high school students community college classes are your friends. They will generally be less difficult than courses you take at the university and you have an entire semester to learn them. Take advantage of this. Simply through taking a course on top of high school every few semesters, I knocked out all but 2 class of my GE and then some. 

So get those prereq's knocked out as soon as you can. You'll appreciate it when you actually get to do engineering when you get to university rather than sitting in GE's and intro courses your first two years.


Nassim Riazi

Note: Make sure to double check with the community colleges transfer center to make sure that the courses you are taking will transfer. or just check

Photo courtesy of Microsoft Office Images


So I don't know how many of you played Neopets as a young kid, but I definitely DID. 

For those of you who don't know what Neopets is it's a virtual world where you are given a pet and you are in charge.  The majority of the game deals with your shop, obtaining Neopoints, and figuring about cheap ways to feed your pet (if at all).:-)

At this point, your probably asking..."Serena, how does Neopets even remotely resemble engineering?" I'll give you 4 ways:

  1. This game is about commerce. The world of ours revolves around commerce and the economy.  You own a shop, and you need to do everything in your power to sell your stuff/ not get it stolen from the ghosts.
  2. Finance skills. You set up a bank account and collect interest.  I think it's a great way to show kids how their money grows in the bank.  Also, you build a shop, where you can sell things.  I would often undercut the market price to ensure that my items would sell... That is called business. :-)
  3. Programming skills.  I learned how to program HTML for my shop.  I started doing this because was jealous of other kids whose shops would overflow with backgrounds and icons.  All I really remember is <img src= " ">, but it was definitely a start.  What kid site teaches them how to program?!
  4. Efficiency.  You name the game, but my goal was to get as much money as possible.  This means that you don't play the games that give you only 50 neopoints per play...You find that game, and you dominate!
I was talking about this with other SWE girls, and we all talked about our slightly coy childhoods of ripping people off and finding the best ways to deal with a "free market." I think it's the closest thing to real life that kids can get involved in....The sad thing now is that they have commercials for the games :-(

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Scholarships: Getting Organized

A few days back, a friend from high school asked me about scholarships.  How do you even start? Well, this is the advice I gave her:

Method 1:

  1. Set up an Excel spreadsheet. Have columns with scholarship title, website/source, deadline, materials needed (resume, transcript, letters of rec, etc.). 
  2. Set up a word document (or even another tab on Excel) for criteria that YOU personally qualify for/interests. Have about 10-20 key words. So, you could put female, engineering, [your major], [hobbies], [place of study], [home city/metropolitan area], [interests- especially those in your major], [different, manufacturing, surgery, pharmaceutics], the list goes on and on Have some solid keywords. 
  3. Go on Googling those keys words with the word "scholarship." Start posting potentials on your Excel spread sheet. Disregard those that you don't qualify for off the bat- unless you think you are so strong of a candidate...just remember that you may immediately go in the "NO" pile. You may also want to check off those key words that you've already used. 
This is the dirty way to do it. I'm not saying it's not effective, but it's a TON of work.

Method 2:
Check your financial aid office website.

  • Davis already has a list, feel free to use it:
  • I also know that UC Davis has combined all of their scholarships into 1 application. It was a little long, but it was one of the most successful instances of a scholarship for me.  

Method 3:
There are also a few scholarship search engines, which can help but be specific, and don't apply to the general "essay" ones. It's pretty much a waste of time because so many people apply to those.

Method 4: 
Also, tell people you are applying to  ____ scholarships!. Look into very LOCAL scholarships. Oooo even the professional societies!!!! These include ASME, BSME, AICHE, SWE (for engineering peeps).  Find your local chapter...sometimes these scholarships have trouble finding applicants because they aren't usually very well known.

Disclaimer: Many of these methods can be combined.  I'm also not saying you WILL get a scholarship...but applying locally and to many scholarships (at least 30) will definitely increase your chances.

That's pretty much the nitty gritty.
Good luck!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Transforming Your Personal Statement

Hi there! My name is Kimberly Jenks, and I am a freshman majoring in Biomedical Engineering at UC Davis. I'm a frantic student balancing honors chemistry, calculus, and engineering by day, and a ninja for the UC Davis Judo Team by night. Science is my passion, and my curiosity is never left satiated, especially when it comes to black holes and time warps! 
Do you have a similar passion for a particular subject? Well, if you're a freshman, this is a great time to start volunteering at research labs and getting some hands-on experience in your field. I've conducted research for half a year, and I have loved every minute of it. It's especially fun when you train at laboratories of various fields (mine were science-related) because you end up becoming more well rounded. 
A pivotal step in getting one-on-one training in your field is taking the step to jump on the wagon. Whether it be applying for a research internship or emailing a cover letter to a professor, it's essential that you understand why your effort to get involved is important to you and how it will push you further toward achieving your goals.
Not only will you need to know this for yourself, but many internship programs and professors show curiosity about this as well. Some ask for a personal statement, while professors may want to know more about you as they write your letters of recommendation.
So here are my tips on transforming your Personal Statement from stilted to stellar!

• Look at the big picture:
Ask yourself, what do you want to get out of this internship? How will it help you accomplish your goals? What would you learn and gain from this experience? (This could range from specific laboratory or computer programming skills to friendship and cultural awareness.)
For me, my big picture was "contributing to future exploration." I absolutely love exploring the realm of science, especially outer space, and that's what I repeatedly discussed in my personal statement. I specifically elaborated on how conducting research will help me do just that. Find your niche (and make sure it's genuine—not cliché or tacky), stick to it, and relate it to your goals and aspirations. This will greatly help you stand out among the crowd of applicants.
• Write your story and Be specific:
Admission officers like to find people who exhibit their individuality. What makes you unique? How does your history set you apart from others? What brought you to find passion in your interests?
Think of an instance or two that pushed you toward your passion and goals. Was it when you made your first Lego robot, or when you toured the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for the first time? Be as specific as you can (yet still concise). The more personal your essay is, the more unique it is as well.
• Give life to your essay and Use action verbs:
Regardless of your writing style, using action verbs could make all the difference in the tone of your essay. It gives a sense of life to your essay and intensifies the actions presented in the writing. For instance, I could say, "I conducted research in the biomechanics department…" OR I could use livelier vocabulary by saying, "I dived into scientific research and studied the intricacy of the human's musculoskeletal system." (The second sentence is indeed wordier, but it's far more interesting to read.)
I hope these tips will help you write a unique Personal Statement. Best of luck!


Check out my new page on Autodesk's Site!

My official page is up!




Good Morning (or rather good afternoon for those of you aren't morning folk),

I wanted to talk to you about the importance of participating in an engineering mentorship program in school, be it through a club, a friend, or a sorority/fraternity.

It might be easier to start be telling you about my own experience. I had just entered UC Davis and joined SWE (Society of Women Engineers). For the rest of you female engineers out there, you know how nice it is to find girls in your major. How many times have you walked into a large 100+ person lecture hall and found that you can count the number of girls in the room on two hands. Needless to say I found SWE very welcoming.

That quarter I decided to participate in SWE's Big Sis Lil Sis program since I could barely find my classes, let alone discern which teachers were good or which offered research to undergrad's. This is also the quarter I met my "Big sis" Serena. Yes, I'm talking about my fellow blogger Serena. Serena showed me the ropes at Davis: which professors to avoid, which classes to take earlier rather than wait until I was an upperclassmen, how to get research, and a hoard of other useful things. She showed me the lab she worked at and helped me with my resume. To the little shy sixteen year old away from home for the first time, this was everything.

Serena and I are still close too. When I found out about my position with Autodesk she's the one who squealed (that's an awful word) with me over the phone. When I got the Autodesk promotion, a position in SWE, when my ad went live, she was there with me through it all. That's also how I met Carmen (another blogger on here), Serena's other mentee and one of my best friends.

Clicking the yes box for the mentorship program may have been one of the best decisions I ever made. I now assist Carmen in running the new Big Sis Lil Sis program with SWE and it's great to see younger students experience Davis this way and gain both mentorship and friendship from their senior engineering students.

I highly recommend all of you underclassmen (or even upperclassmen who are still figuring things out) to participate in a similar program. It has definitely made my experience at Davis memorable.