Once you're an engineer, you approach problems differently than others. From your first feasibility analysis and experimental design, every problem becomes an engineering problem in some aspect."
What types of work have you performed? What projects have you worked on?
Mostly pure science, and computational modelling. Presently I work on artificial intelligence approaches in chemistry and laboratory automation.
What have been some favorite aspects of your work?
Problem solving and feasibility analysis have been consistently fun and useful skills.
What was one of your most satisfying days as an engineer?
I was on a drive across Europe and Asia and broke down in Mongolia with a team of people (5 cars 18 people...fortunately 2 engineers). We were on a tight time scale on getting back into Siberia for flights and visa reasons. My mate - now an engineer at SpaceX - and I were able to quickly diagnose the issue, design a 'good-enough-to-get-far-enough' fix, and play a game of Mongolian charades to sort out the fix. All in all we lost half a day, but the team's engineers proved their worth.
Was it worth it? What has your engineering background made possible for you? What value has it added to your overall life?
Once you're an engineer, you approach problems differently than others. From your first feasibility analysis and experimental design, every problem becomes an engineering problem in some aspect. Being able to apply these skills in computational modelling and in teams packed with pure scientists has been particularly advantageous. I can't say I won't go back into any kind of engineering in the future, but I am certain that the value of the education has been central to all of my activities --- in and outside of science.
What would you say to the freshmen currently sitting in your shoes?
Enjoy it! The problems are fun, and sufficiently open ended. If you can find creative ways that each of your team members can contribute you will be particularly successful.