Lindsey, California asked Jennifer Polivka, Nike

AddedWednesday, January 20, 2016 at 1:05 AM

Seeking inspiration
Hi Jennifer! I am currently a junior in high school and am uncertain about the major I will be choosing for my college applications as a senior in the fall. After seeing your posts and doing a little more research, I am very interested in material science/engineering, and was wondering if you could answer a few questions. I have looked on many college websites and they all have the material science degrees, but most are also unclear as to what the courses involved are. Besides general ed classes, what are some of the specific courses you took that were more specific to that major? I know it was a lot of math/ science, but how high was the level of math? I also noticed that you work for Nike, and being very involved in sports my whole life, I think pursuing a similar career would be very interesting. In your daily work, do you work more with making the materials or testing the materials? Are you able to propose ideas for new products/ designs for the sports equipment? What other types of engineers do you work with? How many hours a day/ week do you work? Lastly, where would be a good place to possibly apply for an internship this summer? Thank you in advance for your response! It it very inspiring to hear from a real person (especially a woman) who works in the field. Lindsey
Related to Internships & Jobs, Materials, Preparation for College
  • Answered Wednesday, January 20, 2016 at 1:05 AM
    Hi Lindsey!
    I'd be more than happy to answer your questions and I hope they are helpful as you decide what you may want to pursue in the future.
    Yes, there is a lot of overlapping classes between Material Science and the other engineering majors. I took about 2 or so years of college mathematics, 2 years of chemistry, and 1 year of physics.  I also took engineering courses in things like statics and dynamics, computer aided design, and technical writing.  Specifically in the Material Science and Engineering major, there are courses for material analysis (microscopy, spectroscopy), crystallography, and classes on specific types of material like polymers or composites.
    The particular area of Nike that I work in does the testing of materials, but there are other areas in the company that work on the material selection and design.  Creating new products and designs is generally up to several other groups, but it is all very collaborative -- if I come to a meeting with test results for a material, that will affect the decisions made for products and designs.
    Within my department there are a lot of different types of engineering backgrounds -- mechanical, chemical, bioengineering, electrical... my boss has a degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering. When you extend the consideration to the people I work with in other groups, then there's even more backgrounds (both engineering, highly technical or not technical at all).
    The amount of time that I spend working changes all the time depending on workload -- generally speaking we are always very busy so it's quite common to be working over the typical 40 hrs/week.  However, there is also a lot of time within there to balance things out -- going out to lunch with coworkers, taking interesting classes, going to the gym on campus, etc.  And we have a good work-life balance; I've never had an issue with taking time off to take care of my family or to go on a planned vacation.
    At this point in your career path, any experience you get will be helpful.  Finding an internship which pertains to engineering will help you decide if that's the right path for you, but even working at a seemingly unrelated place like a summer camp or a restaurant or department store would give you vital skills in customer service and communication.  I would ask your teachers for ideas of where or who to ask in your local area that may be looking for interns.
    Hope that helps!