Annie Jones-Wyatt earned her Ph.D. and Master’s in Aerospace Engineering from Georgia Tech, and her Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Rice University. Here she shares a little about her career and the inspiration behind it.
What is your specific area of STEM?
Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering
How would you explain your STEM field to young girls?
I use science and math to design airplanes and the technology that goes inside them. Aerospace engineers make decisions about the shape of the wings, how high and how fast they can fly, and how they interact with other air and ground vehicles.
What traits might a child possess that may indicate an interest or aptitude for your STEM field?
Curiosity about the natural world - why is the sky blue, etc.; enjoying building/taking apart things, or arts & crafts (design). Constantly asking questions, even if you annoy your parents (I'm channeling my younger self here).
What did you know about your STEM field when you were a child?
My parents were always encouraging; we regularly visited science museums, children's museums, went to air shows, and watched documentaries/history programs. My father is a scientist, and my mother is an accountant (good at math). I had a very influential high school physics teacher who helped me towards the path of physics/mechanical engineering in undergrad. I didn't really know about the various engineering disciplines until I reached college; until then, my understanding was that it was all pure physics/math, even though I was exposed to scientists all around.
Why did you choose your STEM field? Were you inspired by someone?
I was always interested in science of some sort. In elementary school I wanted to be an archaeologist or paleontologist from reading National Geographic. I volunteered at a nature center, so in middle and early high school I wanted to be an environmental biologist. When I did high school physics and robotics, I shifted towards mechanical engineering, and towards the end of undergrad decided I wanted to pursue a postgraduate degree in aerospace engineering. I grew up around NASA but it wasn't until 7 years after we moved away from Houston that I really dove into aerospace engineering.
What are some really cool things that people in your profession work on?
In an internship, I got to work on parts for the International Space Station. In another internship, I did mechanical engineering work for the James Webb Space Telescope. Since then it's been more nuanced work, but in general, aerospace engineers design airplanes, helicopters, and rockets, which I think is pretty darn cool!
What inspirational message would you give young girls to inspire them to pursue STEM?
Always ask questions, learn about the physical laws governing the universe around you, and then draw/sculpt/design/build your own inventions and creations!
Thank you for contributing, Annie!
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