Carmen Espinal

Carmen Espinal

Mechanical Engineer (Design)
NTN Bearing Corporation of America
IL, United States
Carmen Espinal
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I am a mechanical engineer currently working for a global leading bearing manufacturer, NTN Bearing Corporation of America in Mount Prospect, IL. I have a BS and Master of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering from Old Dominium University in Norfolk, VA. In my free time I volunteer to teach ESL classes at the Vietnamese Association, north side of Chicago. I also like handcrafting; I create jewlery from polymer clay. What I enjoy most about my job is that I get to work on a variety of projects. I get to design bearings for various applications and industries such as construction, mining, automotive, aerospace, medical, etc. The projects are fairly complex and they require extensive research on the application and its operating conditions such as loads applied, temperature, lubrication conditions. As an engineer you have to account for all given conditions, but you also have to plan for the unexpected. Basically, you have to design with a worst case scenario in mind. While the word ”bearings” may not mean much to many, these pieces of machinery are quintessential for anything that rotates – from complex systems such as cars or planes to computers, printers or tiny medical devices such as the dental equipment. I was not born with a passion for engineering. Up until senior year of high-school I did not know what mechanical engineers do. The reason I chose to pursue a ME degree is because I liked the idea of studying an exact science. Unlike humanistic careers where you may have a million of good answers and interpretations, in engineering, particularly Math, 1+1 will always equal 2 and nobody has to agree or disagree about it. With that being said, I would like to encourage more young girls to pursue careers in the STEM field. I believe having a strong technical background will help develop your critical thinking skills which will ultimately help you succeed in any career you may later decide to follow.
Master of Engineering Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering
  • I am willing to be contacted by educators for possible speaking engagements in schools or in after school programs or summer camps.
  • I am willing to serve as science fair judge or other temporary volunteer at a local school.
  • I am willing to be interviewed by interested students via email.
Answers by Carmen Espinal


I looked up briefly at a petroleum engineering degree curriculum, and I noticed that while there are a few fairly specialized classes, the core of the curriculum is similar to that of a mechanical engineering degree: Calculus, I, II, Chemistry I, II, Fluids, Differential Equations, etc. That being said, I think you have nothing to worry about. Now the question is what area of mechanical engineering your master studies will focus on? Is it Fluids? Is it Structural Mechanics? I noticed there are not too many classes related to Structural Mechanics (e.g. Finite Element Analysis, Strength of Materials, etc) in the petroleum engineering curriculum, but I did see Statics and Mechanics (I know different universities have different curricula, but I assume most of them should have Statics and mechanics).

So I think the answer to your question boils down to two main things:
1.	What area of mechanical engineering you will be focusing on
2.	How much of a hard worker are you – you may be in the position of having to catch up on few concepts (I transferred from a foreign university. The school in US agreed to transfer my credits for Thermodynamics I class, but not Thermodynamics II. So I registered to take Thermo II in USA assuming Thermo I class I took back home was similar as Thermo I offered in USA. But that wasn’t the case. So I had to catch up on Thermo I based on the USA manual while studying Thermo II – it wasn’t easy but it is do-able).

I think engineers in general are able to adapt to changes easily, and the fact that you graduated with an engineering degree and the fact that your grades are eligible to enroll in a Master program tell me that you have what it takes to succeed.

Good luck!


Not too long ago I was in your shoes. I was well in my 3rd semester of studying ME and things got pretty difficult. I had classmates dropping out or switching majors. It was very tempting; it is particularly tempting to give up if you are used to high grades. Engineering, however, is a little different than some of the traditional majors. Engineering is about discipline and not giving up. It is about being really good at prioritizing and working in a team when possible. And guess what? All these skills we are not born with it, rather, we learn them through experiences. What I am trying to say is that you are fairly far along in your ME studies. By now you must have passed Calculus (1 & 2 and maybe Calc 3) and you must have gotten a taste of Statics or at least Physics I and II. Why give up when you are almost half way? 
To answer your questions: what made me stay with engineering when things got harder was the following thought: "Anything that is worth in life, it is hard to get and therefore you have to put a lot of work for it. Moreover, everything that is worth it and is hard to get won't be pursued by too many people because they get scared and give up without putting a fight." Probably that is why engineering jobs are widely available but unfortunately there are not too many candidates to fill them up. That leads into the answer to your second question. The most rewarding part of finishing my ME degree beside the opportunity to work on something that makes life easier for a lot of people (I design bearings for various industries) is that I know I will be able to take care of my family. The chances of being unemployed while holding an engineering degree (particularly ME) are very slim. Other rewarding parts are the following:
-Higher starting salary (the IT, Engineering, Medical field all paid fairly nice starting salaries) compared to other disciplines - we are talking $58K+
-Opportunity to work overseas if you like that (I recently got approached to interview for an aerospace company in Germany designing engines)
-The ability to switch the field of your job: - bored with engineering, no problem - you can do sales, project management, marketing, planning, banking, investing - you name it - everybody likes an individual with good math skills, discipline and good at prioritizing.

Ellen, you are on the right track, and it looks like you almost had it figured out. Don't give up - find a study buddy, go take advantage of the professors' student hour to ask questions. Use internet to check youtube for lectures that you didn't understand in class. If you mess up on a test, once you learn the solutions come home and test, and re-test yourself until you are able to complete that test with no mistakes. And last but not least, please do not switch to a Technology major - remember, what is it worth having, is hard to get so less people will compete for it and in the end there will be more jobs available for that particular area of study. 

Good luck with everything and I hope that in few short years you will ve joining us here at EngineeringGirl!   

Dear Manikanth,

Congratulations on your graduation! I think you will be able to make a good decision on what path best works for you only after you have been working in the industry for a little while (~1 year) – whether as a manufacturing engineer, production, reliability engineer – really anything related to mechanical engineering. You may actually discover that you like doing something you initially thought you would never enjoy doing. As a young professional, that just started her career, there is plenty of time for you to grow and learn and change career paths down the road. For example, I started as a medical device engineer. I changed my job 1 year later because I wanted to do something more technical. Currently, I work as a design engineer; I also get to work with manufacturing plants, sales engineers, applications engineers and test engineers. So my current job offers insight on what other engineering jobs are available in my company, and at the same time gave me a pretty good idea of whether I want to switch to any of them down the road. For example I know that I do not want to be an industrial engineer or a test engineer but I may be interested in switching to a sales engineer position because I like interacting with people.
You said that you want to work abroad, but you do not mention where you currently live and where you would like to work abroad – would you like to work in Europe, or US? The answer to the previous question may or may not pose further limitations on the specialty you want to pursue.
No matter what path you choose you have some very exciting choices in front of you as a mechanical engineer professional. I wish you well and good luck! 

Dear Holly,
Congratulations on making your mind so early about what career you want to pursue. Setting your goals early will definitely increase your chance to succeed in everything you put your mind to. Now, to answer your questions whether colleges look at physics and math grades separately, I would say it really depends on the college. They have different rules but do not get discourage by that. Math and Physics are challenging subjects and very few students apply to colleges with stellar scores. So I have few recommendations for you that should help you get into an engineering school:
1.	Most important thing try to get high scores on the national tests (especially math)
2.	If you apply to a school that specifically mentions the grades in high school as a criteria for admissions you could write a letter (1 page max) and explain why your Physics grades are not that great – a lot of schools want to see a candidate that does just good in school but gets involved with major related activities (e.g. engineering societies, projects – Formula 1 team, volunteering, etc) rather than have a 4.0 GPA and spend your time studying all day.
3.	Last but not least you can always start at a community college and then transfer to a University. Not only the credit hour is cheaper (so you won’t rack up debt), but you can take Math and Physics classes and make sure you take a decent grade and then transfer to a University. 
In conclusion – there are so many ways to get around the “not so great grades” that you took in high school; by all means do not get discouraged by that. If the University you want to apply won’t accept you, go to a community college for a year and then apply again as a transfer student (work with an advisor to ensure any classes you take at the community college will transfer to the University). Also, do not get disappointed by the possible Bs or Cs grades you may take while taking Engineering classes for the first time. Just hang in there and give it your all and eventually you will succeed. My grades weren’t great in my freshmen year, but by my senior year I managed to not only raise my GPA, but I also got admitted to a Master program that paid my tuition and a little money on a side. Remember, “It’s not over until it’s really over”.  Wish you all the best!