Macademics: From Chemical Engineering to Nuclear Engineering
Hi again! We're back with another installment of Macademics! As I've said before, the beautiful thing about engineering is that you have so many options ahead of you even if it's not exactly what you started. This month, I'm interviewing Jessica Bee. Jessica graduated from Prairie View A&M University with a degree in Chemical Engineering and now works as a Nuclear Engineer for a Naval Shipyard in Seattle Washington. Here's what she had to say:
What is Chemical Engineering?
Chemical engineers solve problems and make products by mainly using chemical processes. They design industrial plants, technology, and processes to make medicine, gas, food, devices, etc. Things you use on a daily basis probably had a chemical engineer involved in the process at some point.
Did you always want to be an chemical engineer? What led you to this decision to becoming an engineer?
No, I actually wanted to be a writer or an English teacher growing up. It wasn't until my senior year in high school that I decided on engineering. The biggest thing for me was having a lot of options in my life. I didn't want to choose a major that would keep me in a box. I always think about my engineering college slogan which was "Imagine the Possibilities". Engineering opens so many doors for you. I've seen people in research, politics, business, real estate, etc who had engineering degrees. They always talk about how that engineering degree gave them the platform to do what they wanted to do. It challenged them and made them hard workers and critical thinkers. I wanted that for my life. I wanted options and endless possibilities for my future.
What has been the biggest challenge transitioning to a nuclear engineering career position?
Nothing in college prepared me to do exactly what I’m doing so everything is new. I’m learning a lot of nuclear and mechanical engineering principles as a chemical engineer. It’s hard graduating thinking you’ve got all the knowledge and skills but then you get to a job and realize there’s so much more to learn. I’m learning that you can’t be afraid to ask questions even if you think you’ll look not so smart.
Did you endure any adversity pursuing your degree? How did you overcome it?
Oh Yes. I always like to say that I'm not "naturally" smart. I'm not one of those people who can look at something one time and instantly "get it". I spend hours learning and studying to understand something. It can be discouraging to be surrounded by so many smart people in your classes who seem to always get it when you don't. However, the struggle I went through helped me find other people who were struggling. We formed study groups, made friendships, and encouraged each other. You start to realize that everybody struggles at something and it's OK to fail sometimes. It's about deciding if you're going to let that failure defeat you or if you're going overcome it.
What are your top pieces of advice do you have for people pursuing a degree in chemical engineering or engineering in general?
Do what you want to do and do it for yourself.
Take care of your reputation.
Learn as much as you can.
ASK. FOR. HELP.
Keep your grades up but understand that now grades aren't the only important thing.
Do you have any interests outside of STEM? What are they?
I love reading. To me it's a way to travel without having to spend too much money or leave your house. I also love baking and thinking of new creations to try. I make earrings for friends and might start a side hustle with it. And lastly I LOVE food and trying out new restaurants.
Thank you so much for letting me feature you, Jessica! Stay tuned for the next installment of the series next month! - The Engineer