Graduated Learning: Life after College

I got my degree, I got a job…now what?

Celebrating Awesome: National Engineers Week in Boston and Beyond! February 16, 2013

I wrote a post 2 years ago about how excited I was about National Engineers Week.  Guess what?  National Engineers Week 2013 is starting!

First of all, the theme for this year’s Engineer Week is Celebrate Awesome.  Frankly, I think that’s one of the best ways to talk about engineering.  It’s AWESOME!

I really love being an engineer.  I get to work with other smart people to create new materials and dream up solutions to problems.  I know engineers who are building robots, designing cars, or creating video games.  They get to be creative and have fun while improving the way we work, live, and play!  Basically, being an engineer is, in fact, AWESOME.

If you live in or around Boston, there’s plenty to do this week to celebrate e-week.  Whether you’re a student, a teacher, a parent, or just a curious individual, there’s something cool to see or do. These aren’t the only events going on, they’re just the ones I know about.  Please share events in the comments!

Any other events going on to celebrate engineers?  Let me know!

And if you don’t live near Boston, you can check out events for National Engineers Week at My Discover-e (or Google Engineers Week events in your city).  Or you can visit the Discover Engineering website to learn more about engineering without leaving your house!

Are you an engineer (or aspiring engineer)? What’s your favorite part about being an engineer?  And if you’re not an engineer, do you have any questions about engineering?

 

Seriously Considering Grad School March 21, 2011

I’m very wishy-washy when it comes to making most of my decisions.  And I get even more anxious the bigger the decisions get.

Which is why I’m feeling incredibly anxious about the idea of going to grad school.  But I know it’s important.

Every once in a while, I start thinking about going back to school.  It’s usually around the time I go to an interesting lecture, symposium, or other educational event.  Sometimes it’s when I talk to my sister, who is pursuing her Ph.D. right now.  And I’m usually reminded about grad school whenever people at work discuss the opportunities through their advanced studies programs.

This time around, I was talking with a coworker about my goals at our company.  We recently both had our yearly performance reviews, and with that, we were required to list our goals for the following year.  So he asked me what my goals were.  My near term (within the year) goals were basically to get better at technical writing and presentation and to get even more involved on higher level work within the project I am working on.  But long-term?  I want to be like the people I work with now who are basically genius problem solvers.  I want to be a subject matter expert. I know some of their skills and knowledge merely comes from experience.  They’ve been working a lot longer than I have.  But I also know that if I really want to keep advancing up the engineering ladder, I’ll need some advanced education.

The plus side of all of this is that my company is really supportive of this sort of ambition.  They’ll reimburse me for classes I want to take.  And if I decide to go back to school full-time, they’ll pay for my tuition, and still pay me half my salary while I’m gone.  It’s a pretty sweet deal.  Granted, you’re committed to the company for a few years afterward, but I don’t mind that.  I’d want to stay at a job that I enjoy!

So, what’s next?  Between my craving to learn more, my desire to advance in my career, and the sweet deal my company offers, this decision is a no-brainer, right?

Just thinking about this plan makes me really anxious.  I have to figure out what schools to apply to, what degree I’m going for (Masters vs. PhD), and what subsection of my major I want to study.  Materials Science and Engineering is a pretty vast field.  I took a lot of classes in polymers and environmental materials selection during undergrad.  And my internships were mostly in metallurgy.  And now I’m working mostly in ceramics.  So, I could go in any of those directions.  Do I pursue what I loved in undergrad, or get more schooling on my main focus at my job (since, well, they’re paying for it, and I’d want to do what would be good for my career)?

I also realize that I would like to go to grad school sooner rather than later.  It gets tougher to go back to school the longer you’re away.  I’m getting pretty used to this post-college lifestyle.  Then again, I could try going to school part time…which would take FOREVER.

I’m still very unsure of what I am going to do.  But I keep seeing signs in my life that I need to get serious about my grad school ambitions.  I can’t put this off forever.

To those of you who have gone to or are currently going to graduate school, how did you make all these important decisions?  I feel so overwhelmed!

 

Happy National Engineers Week! February 23, 2011

Filed under: Careers,Science — Stephanie @ 10:05 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

It’s National Engineers Week!  Hooray!

I’m always psyched about National Engineers Week.  And it’s not just because my company makes a big deal about it, giving us free coffee every morning and the occasional slice of cake throughout the week.

I’m excited for a lot of reasons.  It’s great to be recognized for our (the engineers) contributions.  Engineers do a lot for us.  As the t-shirt I won in a raffle at the company’s library says:  Science:  Engineers Make It Work.

One thing I’m really excited about is the outreach to students and the community that is an integral part of National Engineers Week.    There are some official events through eweek, but my company is also doing a lot of work to help get young people excited about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).  One of the great things we do in our department is invite students on lab tours and show them how cool science is!  And I like that, even outside of eweek, my supervisor encourages me and others to do community outreach.  I’ve gotten to help run bridge building contests, work with local teachers developing a new STEM education programs, talk to high school girls about engineering, and present cool nanotechnology to visitors at the Boston Museum of Science during NanoDays.

I believe it’s really important to get young people interested in STEM.  And apparently, President Barack Obama does, too.  I’m pretty sure every year, the U.S. President writes a letter to the engineers, and this year was no exception.  This year he wrote a letter encouraging current engineers to spark excitement in young people about engineering.

So, are you doing anything fun for National Engineers Week?  Are you an Engineer?  What type are you?  I’m a Materials Scientist and Engineer (it’s the engineering major with science as its middle name!)

 

Teach Me Tuesday: Quantum Dots July 21, 2009

Filed under: Science — Stephanie @ 10:19 pm
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While I doubt that it could actually become a “trending topic” in Twitter, I’ve decided to start a trend of my own.  I’ve decided that on any given Tuesday, I’ll try to have (on both Twitter and my blog) a “Teach Me Tuesday”.  I’ll mention a topic that interests me (or even a topic suggested by a reader), and discuss what I know.  But really, the goal of these posts/tweets is that I’d love to get other people’s input on the topic.  I’m guessing there are people out there who know a heck of a lot about a subject (or at least more than I know).  I encourage you to try the same (on Twitter) to see what awesome information and guidance your twitter followers (and the twitterverse at large) can provide for you.  Tweet with #teachmetuesday!

So here’s my quick intro to quantum dots:

For the basics about quantum dots, the wikipedia article is a pretty good start.  Mostly what I know is that I may have made some in a lab class during undergrad, and I thought they were pretty cool.  I also attended a presentation once about them from an employee from QD Vision, where I learned more about the possible applications of quantum dots.

What I’m looking for in this (and future posts for Teach Me Tuesday) is what you (the blog-reading public) to provide me (and others that drop by my blog) with your interesting facts, favorite links, or excellent explanations of the topic.  So this week, comment with those ideas about Quantum Dots!  Tell me what’s new and exciting in quantum dot research and utilization, or what you find most impressive/fascinating/scary about them!

#teachmetuesday

 

Are you a member of a professional society? March 18, 2009

Filed under: Careers,Science — Stephanie @ 9:51 pm
Tags: , ,

I’m always hearing about presentations, conferences, and networking sessions sponsored by professional organizations.  And that reminds me that I should perhaps think about joining one.

I know that there are quite a few groups related to my academic background and current work, such as the Materials Research Society or the American Ceramic Society.  Then there are also groups like the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) that are geared toward women in particular.  And there are plenty of benefits to joining groups like this.  I can keep up on the latest news/research in my field, network/meet new people, and otherwise utilize the group for both intellectual/career benefits and social/personal benefits.

I’m already a member of the alumni association from my college.  And I’ve gotten involved in activities geared toward recent alums like myself.  So I’ve done some networking and met some new people.  But I think I’d like to learn more about the latest research, and be able to meet new people in my field.

The membership fees for most of these groups aren’t too bad.  In fact, many professional organizations are providing membership discounts for unemployed individuals (so they can get back into the field).  So which groups do I join?  I’m thinking I should ask around at work to find out what groups are beneficial.

Are you a member of a professional society?  Which ones?  What do you gain from your membership?  Or if you’re not a member, why not?

 

Materials Science followup November 25, 2008

I guess I didn’t really talk about why I find my field so awesome.  I realized that’s a bit weird to just say, so I think I’ll tell a story.

My folks were in town for a long weekend, and we were going on some tours at MIT.  One of the tours we went on was at the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnology.  This is an MIT affiliated research facility that is also closely connected to a few major companies as well as the U.S. Military.  At any rate, as we were taking the tour, we were shown all sorts of cool technologies and told about amazing discoveries and possibilities.  They have a whole list of ideas that they’re focusing on.  Both at this facility and at many different materials research groups, there is a large focus on creating lighter weight materials that can be functionalized to do certain things, such as protect from chemicals, act as waterproofing, defend against puncture, and many other properties.  Materials can be developed that are stronger, harder, more thermally resistant, or other beneficial properties.

There is also a move towards medical materials and devices that are extremely helpful in the battlefield, but can eventually be transitioned to be used by local EMTs and emergency room doctors.  In fact, one story I heard there that really managed to wow my mother (and pretty much everyone else there, including me!) was about a boy who was born missing some of the bones of his ribs.  Materials scientists and biologists are working to help him and others like him to live more normal lives.  As noted in this CNN/TIME article (in the second to last paragraph) Robert “Langer is using tailor-made polymers to build tiny scaffolds that can then be seeded with skin, cartilage, liver or other cells. The idea is to provide a temporary structure that cells can colonize and upon which they can eventually grow into a functioning organ — at which point the scaffold dissolves away”.   How cool is that?  They’re building new bones for this kid!

To learn more about Materials Science, you can check this page out.  I actually went to see the exhibit that this site is for when it was nearby.  And I even wore one of the geeky materials shirts I got from my department.  But it was cool to see all the cool stuff there, and I recognized the names on some of the presentations…my professors were cited in many of the displays! This site is pretty good because it has a general overview, but also has plenty of links to other sources of information.

If you’d like to learn more about nanomaterials and other nano-things, I  recommend checking out the website for the National Nanotechnology Initiative.

Well, that’s enough science for now.  While you’re being awed by how cool science is, you should also probably check out TIME’s Best Inventions of 2008.  Many of the inventions were made possible by advancements in science and engineering!

 

And yes, I love material science! November 18, 2008

I don’t usually touch on my academic background in the blog.  I tend to talk more about personal finance, with a bit of food and Boston talk thrown in.  And I guess general musings about life after graduation.  But today I’d like to talk about Materials Science and Engineering.

First off, I studied Materials Science and Engineering at MIT.  I originally was going to major in Chemistry or Chemical Engineering, but the more I looked at the majors, the more I realized Materials Science and Engineering was the place for me.  It’s a great combination of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Aero/Astro, and really, lots of science and engineering majors.

I think I often find myself urging others to pursue Materials Science and Engineering, or at least science/engineering in general.  And my new job gives me plenty of ways to share my love of science, engineering, and my scientific background with others.  I went back to MIT for their Career Fair and talked to students about my job and what sort of work I do.  And I went to an event for women in engineering, where high school girls interested in science and engineering came together and learned about future career opportunities.  I really like telling people about all the cool things that you can do as an engineer or scientist.  Maybe that makes me a geek!

So, I think I’ll post every once in a while about materials and such.  It’s something I’m really interested in!  And I’d also like to mention that, while I’m not a career adviser or anything, if you have any questions about college/careers in science/engineering, let me know.  I know it sounds lame, but I really like helping people.  And so if there’s a student who wants to know more about colleges or majors, I’d be happy to help.

So, stay tuned for more posts, likely with more reasons for why I love materials!

p.s.  A really cool resource out there is OpenCourseWare, a program through MIT where material from classes taught at MIT is posted for anyone to read/watch/listen to for free.  Check it out!  And since I’m promoting Materials this week, you should definitely look at the courses listed under that major. (especially 3.091, an extremely popular class at MIT.  The professor, Donald Sadoway, is an exceptional scientist and lecturer, and the class is a good start on the topic).

 

 
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