Elizabeth Benitez earned her Master’s Degree from Georgia Tech and her Bachelor’s Degree from MIT, both in Aerospace Engineering. Here she shares a little about her career and the inspiration behind it.
What is your specific area of STEM?
Aerospace Engineering, specifically aerodynamics
How would you explain your STEM field to young girls?
I'm interested in how we can design shapes that will fly the best at hypersonic speeds (really, really fast). Since air behaves differently once you start moving so fast, we have to be careful to design a plane that can withstand the new challenges it will experience and still be under control of the pilot.
What traits might a child possess that may indicate an interest or aptitude for your STEM field?
Definitely an interest in math and a curiosity about how things work. My early interest in space also helped point me towards my current career.
What did you know about your STEM field when you were a child?
I actually didn't know that aerospace engineering was a thing until I was a senior in high school. I always wanted to be an astronaut when I was young, but after watching the Columbia explode I changed my mind. I thought I wanted to become a mechanical engineer who specifically worked on planes and rockets, but it turned out that was in fact its own field (aerospace).
Why did you choose your STEM field? Were you inspired by someone?
I attended an all-girls summer program at MIT in mechanical engineering when I was a junior in high school. I was introduced to all sorts of subfields in it from robotics to fluid mechanics, and got to talk to professors and professionals in the field, all while learning some of the math behind it. It really helped me decide what I wanted to study. I highly recommend it (it's called the Women's Technology Program).
What are some really cool things that people in your profession work on?
A lot of aerospace engineers get to work with wind tunnels, where they build small models of the planes they are interested in studying and put them in a tube that can create wind equivalent to anywhere from a passing breeze to faster than inside a tornado! I'll be working with a hypersonic wind tunnel for my PhD, where I'll get to study flow moving a Mach 6.
What inspirational message would you give young girls to inspire them to pursue STEM?
STEM includes some of the most interesting and influential careers for creating the future.
Thank you for contributing, Elizabeth!
Women in STEM, we invite you to take our survey. You'll inspire young girls and contribute to the success of the STEM Girls Books series!