Hello, I'm a high school student in Indonesia and I'm kind of interested of becoming a mechanical engineer. By this mail, I would like to ask what is it like being a mechanical engineer? Many people say that engineering is usually related to men's work, such as lifting heavy weights. Is the real situation really like this? Is there any risk for women working in this field? I hope you can share your experience with me. Looking forward to your answer. Thanks in advance. -Na Huang
by Na Huang
on April 2, 2012
Hi Na Huang! Glad to talk to you! Coming from Asia myself, I totally understand your concern. :) When I first told my parents that I wanted to go into mechanical engineering, they thought of the same thing, i.e. working with cars and lots of heavy machinery. Mechanical engineering is a very wide field with many disciplines. There is a lot more to it than most people think. Automotive and machine designs are a few examples but that's not all mechanical engineers do. I myself work with robots for medical applications. There are mechanical engineers who work in fluid dynamics, heat transfer, mechanics of materials, dynamics and controls, etc. In many cases, the work they do involves mainly simulations and designing software. As an undergraduate student, you will get to explore all these core mechanical engineering areas. I think having my background in MechE provided me with a very good foundation to transfer to another engineering discipline if I wanted to. There will definitely be some design aspects, which may involve working with machinery, making your own parts in the machine shop, etc. You may think of that as men's work, however, I think what is more important is whether it is something you would enjoy doing. I think at the end, that's all that matters. If you like it, don't be afraid and go for it! Who says women can't get their hands dirty? :) -Nim
In some countries, engineering can be related to manual labor, but in most countries engineering is about the science and technology of getting things done. As a mechanical engineer you have the opportunity to work with various types of equipment--static (or fixed) and rotating. Static equipment deals with things like piping, vessels and heat exchangers; rotating equipment deals with things like pumps and compressors. The fact that these can be very large pieces of kit may lead to the perception of "man's work." From an educational and real-world practice perspective, however, women do just as well.