Natalie Anderson is a student in Mechanical Engineering and an ME Student Apprentice. She is an intern with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics.
Where are you working this summer and what made them stand out in your internship search?
I have been working at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) on East Campus since August 2020. I found the opportunity to be a research assistant on the MCEN-Prof listserv, and was interested in applying because aerospace is an interesting field of mechanical engineering. The job description also emphasized the opportunity for hands-on work and time in the machine shop.
What kinds of projects have you had a chance to work on over the summer?
I have gotten to work on many different aspects of mechanical engineering in this position. Part of my time is spent designing ground-support-equipment (GSE) in Solidworks and manufacturing the parts in the machine shop if they're not too complicated. I also do mechanical stress and vibration analysis in a program called ANSYS. This summer I was also in charge of running my own research project and writing a published paper about it!
Was there a particular problem or challenge that really pushed your engineering skills?
Designing the experiments for my research project was challenging for me, because there was no 'answer' or right way to do things. I had to think about the best way to establish controls and truly isolate the factors I was trying to test. I also had to re-take a lot of data because I messed things up. I gained a lot of experience running this test setup and think future research will go smoother because I've deeveloped better strategies for organization and efficiency.
How did what you've learned through classes show up in your work? Did you have any "aha!" moments when you realized that you could use an equation or skill that you'd learned in class?
Calculating stresses and failure related a lot to Mechanics of Solids, so I am happy I took that course before having this job. Also, I doubt I would have gotten the job without the SolidWorks class! Even though the course focuses on the basics, it helped me get to a place where I could comfortably Google more advanced tools when I needed them.
What advice do you have for other students interested in working or interning in a related field?
Some aerospace internships are very competitive, and you may not get accepted your first few times applying if you don't have relevant experience. Try establishing your credibility with active participation in an engineering club (leadership positions etc.) or by becoming a research assistant (even if it's unpaid, having something on your resume is a huge benefit!).