EAST HARTFORD, Connecticut – United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) celebrated its engineers this week by asking a few of them to explain what drives them...in their own words. UTRC is proud to recognize engineers during Engineers Week, Feb. 21-27.
Who has influenced you the most in your career?
"My undergraduate professor, A.B. Patel, was my biggest influence. He introduced me to power electronics, taught me, and encouraged me to go for my Master's. It caught on, and I liked it enough to pursue it."
What are the most important traits of a successful engineer?
"Asking questions. When you're asked to do things -- given a challenge -- it's important to ask the right questions, and not be afraid to ask questions. Being inquisitive helps you be a good engineer."
What has been the biggest challenge of your career?
"There have been different types of challenges. Coming to a new country presented its own challenge -- getting used to cultural differences. Grad school presented practical challenges. When I was pursuing my Ph.D., a microgrids hardware setup I was working on actually blew up. But as an engineer, you have to be ready to face failure. In my thesis, I ended up thanking not only my parents and my professors, but my setup as well."
Why did you choose engineering as a career path?
"Top universities in China have the best engineering programs in the world. Based on my high school performance, I was recruited by a top-ranking university to study one of the focused engineering topics. I grew to like engineering because I see it has a wide range of impact on all aspects of society."
What is one of the biggest challenges you've faced as an engineer?
"It is not hard to find engineering problems. They are all over the place. Yet, I find it very challenging to identify good engineering problems that have strong impact, and to be strategic in seeking solutions that may not be too far ahead of the curve."
What provides you a sense of achievement?
"I feel engineering is exciting and challenging. You get to solve complicated issues. When a business unit identifies a problem -- you get pulled into a need -- and you see your work improve a design, you feel your efforts are worthwhile. Being able to point out some product feature to my kids and say, 'Mom makes it work better,' is very satisfying."
What is the most professionally rewarding aspect of your current work?
"My role is not only developing my leadership and project management skills but is also, through the collaboration with external organizations...exposing me to a broad range of different ideas and methodologies to solve problems. I enjoy the teamwork with professors and students at partner universities and the professionals at those organizations.”
What is significant about your educational background?
"I have a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering with a minor in applied mathematics from the University of California at Los Angeles. I earned my master’s and bachelor’s degrees in China, from Tsinghua University in Beijing. I also serve as a journal reviewer for AMSE's Journal of Computational and Nonlinear Dynamics."
You have a broad range of publications and presentations to your credit. What is the value of these to you personally as well as to UTRC?
"I think it is very important to be recognized by my peers. It is especially satisfying that the very first project I worked on here was published, and the paper has been listed as one of the top 10 most downloaded papers on the journal website for years. The work I have done at UTRC has been recognized internationally, and it is very important to be able to have a reputation as a leader in the R&D field.
Why did you choose to become an engineer?
"I was one of those kids who continually asked 'why?' I wanted to know why things were designed, manufactured, and assembled a certain way and I was fortunate enough to have parents who didn't discourage my curiosity. That curiosity and the desire to understand the thought process behind a product's development led to a passion for continual learning and a Ph.D."
What is your greatest career passion?
"Having impact and doing it in a sustainable fashion. Regarding impact, we only get one chance to climb this mountain we call life so making the right steps, learning from the missteps, having the right company, stopping to enjoy the view often enough, and sharing in the accomplishments with so many that make it possible is very important to me. I'm committed to building highly functional and supportive teams; I find that to be very rewarding. I only have another 20+ years at this and I want to ensure my efforts have meaningful impact. Regarding sustainability, I enjoy mentoring and my current role gives me the opportunity to help those I work with identify their individual passions while also finding a career path within UTRC that aligns with that passion."
Who has influenced your career most as a mentor?
"This is a difficult question, as many people have influenced my career in different and valuable ways. My parents always encouraged me to explore; an uncle, who is an engineer, was my bridge to understanding the profession; my Ph.D. advisor, John Starkey, helped me hone the craft; and a number of UTRC Fellows, program leaders, department leaders, group leaders and staff continue to teach me about people, organizational behavior and myself."
Contact: Laura Stevens, (860) 610-1653