When Jane Hawkins (MAE ’13) decided to attend the Engineering School Career Fair her first year at U.Va., she had no idea what to expect. Thanks to the contacts she made there, she was able to forge a relationship with Rolls-Royce North American Technologies that has significantly enriched her engineering education.
After further interviews, Rolls-Royce gave Hawkins the opportunity to do a co-op with the company, which meant interspersing periods of paid, professional work at Rolls-Royce with her Engineering School coursework. She spent the summers after her first and second years at the company’s 2.6 million square-foot complex in Indianapolis and is spending the second semester of her third year there as well.
“This experience has given me perspectives on business and engineering that would have been impossible for me as an undergraduate to gain otherwise,” she says. Working with an 11-person team that includes seven Ph.D.s, she had the opportunity to apply concepts she learned in the classroom. She also had the chance to expand her knowledge, taking a Rolls-Royce organized seminar for co-op students on Computational Fluid Dynamics. “Throughout my co-op experience, I’ve always been excited to go to work” she says. “It’s reinforced my feeling that engineering is the right path for me.”
To compensate for the atmospheric distortion of light, modern ground-based telescopes use a mirror membrane controlled by an array of microactuators. Each microactuator deforms a portion of the membrane to produce a true image. Alexander ussomanno (MAE ’12) is working with Associate Professor Carl Knospe to perfect a next-generation microactuator that would be smaller, faster and more sensitive than current models.
With guidance from staff member Huihui Wang, Russomanno has learned to create a 2mm-square capillary force actuator in the Engineering School’s Clean Room. This spring, he will be working on his own to create a much smaller version of the prototype. “The process of research is much more self-directed than taking a class,” he says. “It’s up to me to successfully shrink the microactuator while maintaining its power.” Russomanno has been reading the literature and learning the processes he will need to use from other researchers in the Clean Room. “This has been an awesome experience that has confirmed my desire to go to graduate school,” he says.