Aerospace engineer

    Karen Willcox

    didn’t get switched on to engineering until my very last term of high school. I realised engineering is a combination of maths, science and solving problems that has a positive impact on the world. I also realised you don’t have to wear overalls and carry a toolbox to be an engineer.

    One of my research projects developed a computer model of how astronauts move in zero gravity. I got to meet astronauts and fly on the NASA zero-gravity aircraft (the ‘vomit comet’). Those flights were the most fun I’ve ever had! Twice I made it to the final rounds of NASA astronaut selection, but was not chosen. However, my goal to become an astronaut has led me to an engineering and teaching career that I love.

    My advice is to recognise that engineering is not just one kind of job. There are so many different types of engineers and important roles engineers play in making the world a better place. They are a critical part of addressing global challenges such as climate change, poverty, health and so many more. I’ve heard many young women say they want a career in medicine because they want to help people. The impact may be more indirect, but engineers absolutely help people just as much as doctors.

    Karen’s path to aerospace engineering:

    > > Bachelor of Engineering, University of Auckland

    > > Masters and PhD in Aerospace Engineering, MIT

    > > Worked on the blended wing body aircraft design team at Boeing

    > > Returned to MIT as Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics

    Want to explore more engineering? Check out Yaya Lu, Robotics Engineer.

    aviation engineering

    “Engineers absolutely help people just as much as doctors.”

    Heather Catchpole

    Author: Heather Catchpole

    Heather co-founded Careers with STEM publisher Refraction Media. She loves storytelling, Asian food & dogs and has reported on science stories from live volcanoes and fossil digs


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