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Helen Carson

Helen Carson, BS '22

How did you become interested in engineering? Tell us about the pathways that lead you to UW MSE.

I always loved space and did planetary science research for science fairs, so I started out in the Earth and Space Sciences department during my first two years at UW. I got into engineering through the virtual NASA L’SPACE program, where my team and I won an award to develop landing pad technology using lunar materials (now called the Lunar Plume Alleviation Device).

A few other things fell into place at the end of my sophomore year. My favorite winter class was Rockets and Instrumentation, and a favorite part of that was working with the carbon fiber. I also enjoyed assisting with the Earth Materials class, and while I didn’t know a lot about possible careers, doing materials science in the space industry seemed like it might combine some of my favorite parts of Lunar PAD and other experiences. I also liked that the MSE major involved both science and engineering. So I took the fundamentals of materials science course (during the spring when applications were due) to see if studying MSE was something I might enjoy, and I absolutely loved it.

Could you share an interesting internship or research lab experience you had?

I interned virtually at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center during summer 2021 (end of junior year). I worked on developing ways to efficiently analyze electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) data using MATLAB in order to study copper and nickel alloys under different processing conditions. It was cool to see topics mentioned in my classes being applied at NASA, and I learned a lot from my mentors, the other interns, and various speakers in the internship program.

What did you enjoy most about your time with UW MSE?

One of my favorite parts was how there were several projects built into the curriculum. They pushed me to explore different areas of materials science and get to know other members of my cohort. It was a lot of work at times, but also fun!

What are you doing now, and how are you putting your MSE degree to use?

I am in the New Graduate Rotation Program at Blue Origin, which means I will work in three different areas of materials and processes over the course of my first year. There is a lot to learn here, and having studied a variety of topics during my time in MSE seems valuable for that, even if the details of those topics were different. My first rotation involves working with metal additive manufacturing, so I’m glad I had the chance to find that area of interest and through the undergraduate lab class, URMSE journal, and my capstone project.

What advice do you have for prospective students?

Be open-minded about things you might enjoy, take time to reflect on what you’re most excited about academically, and spend time doing things outside of the classroom, for your career and for yourself.