University of California
at Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA
Engineering, University of California/Berkeley
Engineering, University of California/Berkeley
Mechanical Engineering, involved in both teaching and research.
After two years with
a manufacturer of Fiberglas products, Adrienne decided to
continue her studies. Her work toward Master's degree encouraged
her to continue on to the PhD. As a researcher she works on heat
transfer and fluid flow problems that come directly from
industry. She emphasizes the variety of career options for the
person educated as a mechanical engineer.
"You have to want to
be a graduate student. I mean, you have to want to study all the
time and think about your research."
"I'm a member of ASME and I go
to their conferences about twice a year. This is the forum where academics
present their research to one another and to industry. ASME has many
other, other functions but that's the one that I am most involved in. And
it's very valuable to me to go there and meet other people working on
similar problems to mine and exchange ideas. And you know, after a while
these get to be your friends and it's just a fun time, too. But
networking, of course it's important in any work in any line of work to
know who the other people are in your field and communicate with them."
"First of all, a
degree in engineering is very valuable because it does not restrict you to
being an engineer, to working in the engineering field. And lots of
lawyers who first had engineering degrees, doctors who have engineering
degrees, it's a good background. It teaches you to think in a logical way
and is very rigorous. So it can lead to many different things. Certainly
business as well, you can get a business degree after an engineering
degree or just go into some business venture after an engineering degree."
Q: When you decide that
you really liked engineering?
I haven't decided yet. No, there are parts of it that I love. It's always
the mathematics. It's been an evolution but let me tell you what I love
about the study of engineering. I love that you can write a simple
equation on a piece of paper that seems very innocent and the one that is
dearest to me that I'm thinking of is called the Navier Stokes equation
and describes fluid mechanics. It describes almost every kind of fluid
flow you could think of from the water flowing through your pipes at home
to the atmosphere to the blood flowing in our veins and many other exotic
flows. Just this little equation. We don't know how to solve it in any
kind of general way. It's been solved for many specific cases. And the
thing that is amazing to me, we understand the principles that govern
fluid flows and that's why we can write the equation down. But that
equation predicts flows that are much more complicated than we could have
ever imagined when we wrote the equation down. So it's as if we just had
this much understanding and the equation takes on a life of its own and
tells us much more.
Q: Talk about what
graduate student life is like.
OK. You have to want to be a
graduate student. I mean, you have to want to study all the time and think
about your research. Well, of course, there's classes. You take classes
for two, two and a half years, something like that. And then the rest is
your research. I'm really talking more about a Ph.D. than a Master's
degree. With a Master's degree, some universities have you do a thesis and
some don't. And some give you the option. But for a Ph.D. there's always a
thesis and that's where you really learn how to approach a problem and
conduct research and contribute to the state of knowledge in your field.
And that's a sort of a heady undertaking, to think that you can contribute
something that no one else knows at the moment. But I said you really have
to want to do it because you're going to be working all the time, you
know. That your life is studying and taking exams and doing your research,
running your code or running your experiment or whatever it is late at
night and on weekends. And I had a lot of fun, too. But you know, it never
got in the way -- it was always secondary to the work. And so if you're
willing to be dedicated in that way, it's extraordinarily rewarding. One
contrast between being a student and being a professor is, that as a
student you're really responsible mainly to yourself to making sure that
you understand what you're supposed to understand and that you produce the
research that is your thesis. You have to make your advisor happy, but
essentially your goals are the same as your advisors. So you're
responsible to yourself, you don't worry about other people, you get your
work done. It's very focused and satisfying.
Q: Is it actually possible
to teach somebody something?
Well, you certainly can't teach someone something if they're unwilling to
learn. And you know, I was talking with someone recently about evaluation
of teaching, which is something we're always doing at the university. And
she made the point, the very valid point, that really what you should be
doing is evaluating whether the students have learned, not whether the
professor has taught well. Because it doesn't matter how well you teach if
the students don't learn. So it's a consensual relationship between the
teacher and the student.
Q: Do you think at all
about whether this is going to be your lifetime career or whether this is
what you're doing now? How about the options, that sort of thing, things
that you weigh?
Well, in my life I've always made my decisions at the last minute. I
haven't really planned ahead. I chose engineering kind of on a whim and
stuck with it. After I worked for a couple of years, I decided to go back
to graduate school but I didn't know if I just wanted a Master's degree or
a Ph.D. And up until the last minute when I had to decide, I hadn't
decided. And then I said, "OK, I'll stay on for the Ph.D." And then when
it came time to graduate and I needed to start interviewing for jobs, my
advisor said, "You should really consider teaching." And it really wasn't
until then that I decided that that's what I would do. So I don't plan
that far in advance. So now you ask me, "Am I going to be in this job
forever or not?" I don't know. For right now, it's an excellent job. As I
said before, there are aspects of it that are frustrating to me but when I
compare it to anything else, I think it's really a very rewarding and
wonderful job. And maybe something else will come along and I'll change,
but no, at this point I think I'm here.
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