Emily Hunt is an Associate Additive Manufacturing Research Engineer who works to bring new 3D printing materials from ideation to creation. An avid problem solver that enjoys working with teams to overcome unique challenges, she attended school at the Michigan Technological University, obtaining her Bachelor of Science in Materials Science and Engineering. In this interview, Emily talks about her professional path, the inspiration that led her to a career in Additive Manufacturing, and her role at Stratasys, and then offers some advice for those looking to pursue a similar career trajectory.
What sparked your interest in engineering? Can you describe the moment you realized this was a field you’d like to pursue?
Ever since I was little, I helped my dad in the garage with his woodworking and house projects, so I’ve been working with tools and building things for most of my life. Once I got to high school and had to start thinking about college and a career I realized that I really liked my chemistry class and that my brain was wired for the logical thinking required to be an engineer. I don’t think there was a defining moment, it just made a lot of sense. I essentially already was an engineer, just without the proper training. I chose material science and engineering as my field because I really enjoyed chemistry and learning how things worked and interacted on the atomic level, which is exactly what you have to do with materials. Luckily, I made the right choice the first time and materials continued to be my passion throughout college and into my career. I got into additive manufacturing because processing is a huge part of materials science and being able to work on a brand-new process, that we still have a lot to learn about and characterize, was an exciting prospect.
Describe your job as an Associate Additive Manufacturing Research Engineer (AMRE) at Stratasys. What does an Associate Additive Manufacturing Research Engineer do? What does an average day look like for you?
As an AMRE in the manufacturing group focused on materials, I am the technical focal point for manufacturing materials development on the team. This means I support the development of new materials by driving requirements, specifying standards, creating technical content to help customers, and other various functions. The day to day can be very different, but I do get to work with a lot of different groups in the company within R&D and the regional teams. In addition I get to work with aerospace and automotive customers to learn what their requirements and their issues are regarding our materials.
You work on very large-scale projects with long time horizons. What are your go-to time management strategies?
Keeping to-do items on an easy to see list (for example a white board at your desk) has always helped with staying on track, especially if you have deadlines. Physically writing something down usually helps it stick in your brain better than just typing. Having an up to date calendar with reminders is another good way to keep track of meetings your day to day meetings and tasks. You really just have to come up with a good system that works for you to keep track of things and stay organized. While I have some ways to stay on top of things I am relatively new at Stratasys, and in the working world I am still figuring out exactly what works for me.
What is it like to be a woman in engineering? Do you feel that your gender gives you a different perspective and experience from your male counterparts? Any advantages?
This question has always been somewhat difficult to answer. Honestly, I’d rather be thought of as an engineer based on my intelligence and merit, not my gender. That being said, because this is a male-dominated industry there are times when it’s more noticeable than others. Any woman that went to a more technical school will find that the working world has an incredibly similar male-female ratio, especially depending on the industry. I am sometimes the only female in the room, or I might feel like I don’t have many woman co-workers to relate to, but most of the time I feel like an engineer that gets to work with really cool technology with great people. I don’t believe I’ve had any advantage or disadvantage in school or in my career because I was a woman.
What advice do you have for women interested in engineering? What kinds of practical experience should they have? What technical skills should they pick up?
I would say once you find what you’re passionate about go for it. Take more classes in that area, get into undergraduate research, look for internships that have some aspect related to it, go to conferences and learn more about it. Ask a ton of questions, from professors, from bosses at internships, from fellow interns/students. The technical skills you need vary widely, the trick is finding that internship that teaches you what you need. I did undergraduate research in additive manufacturing, as well as 2 internships (one aerospace, one automotive) that really ended up being exactly what I needed for my current position. The only way I was able to get that was to really take advantage of the opportunities offered (career fairs, resume builders, research grants with professors) and never stop asking questions.