Education and engineering are in the news lately: Here is just one recent example, an article from USA Today. The line that is particularly relevant to me is that only about a third of U.S. students “who started out as engineering majors in 2005 finished that way four years later.”
When I was a college freshman in the late 1960s, I declared my major as math. I loved algebra, geometry, chemistry and physics in high school, and the subject matter and solving its problems seemed to come naturally to me. But somewhere along the line, I missed a pre-calculus course, and the Calculus 1 class I took was absolutely Greek. I stuck it out through Calculus 2, and got Cs in both classes ― but only because every morning after class, I headed directly to the professor’s office, where he tried to explain it to me all over again. It wasn’t enough. In spring of that year, I changed my major to something I felt I could master. I began my post-collegiate career as a writer, full of enthusiasm and belief that I could solve the world’s big problems.
I’m still a writer, and my career path has had the usual twists and turns. In the 80s, I worked in the corporate communications department of a prestigious university medical center. I found the subject matter fascinating, all the cutting-edge science behind joint replacement, artificial organs, cancer radiation techniques, sports medicine research and much more. I was happy to write about these efforts so other people could understand how the medical center was translating science into cures.
Now I sit at ANSYS and write even more about science, this time the technology behind products. Sometimes those products are related to healthcare: optimizing artificial joints and hearts, designing medical devices for accuracy and reliability, engineering stents and pharmaceuticals for cost effectiveness and efficacy, and forging the new sub-industry of personalized medicine. I still find the writing and subject matter fascinating. But this time there’s a twist: I wish I had studied engineering in college. In my next life, I want to be able to engineer products the same way our customers do: with the power of a computer to provide insight into getting to the best design candidate. If there had been a decent advisor on my college campus those many years ago, it might have made a difference. I might have made a difference.
So instead of being an engineer, I write about how student engineers can benefit from using ANSYS software in their classrooms, solving problems hands on. My own belief that nothing exists in a vacuum (including physics forces) aligns well with the ANSYS vision of multiphysics and systems engineering. Maybe I am making a difference after all.