Q&A with Jill Blecke

Jill Blecke

Jill Blecke

BS in Mechanical Engineering, 2005—Michigan Tech
MS in Mechanical Engineering, 2010—Michigan Tech
PhD in Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics, 2011—Michigan Tech

Current position: Researcher for Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Q:  What was the focus of your graduate research?

A: Most of my research has focused on modeling, optimization, control system design, and dynamic testing of electrostatic microelectromechanical systems (MEMS).

Q: What was the most challenging aspect?

A: Learning and accepting the progress trend of research. As a graduate student, I was attempting to learn both technical knowledge and the process of research concurrently, so that provided a challenge on two fronts. I have learned that progress can sometimes be very dynamic. Keeping yourself motivated and keeping your mind open to all possible solutions during times of limited progress, when it seems like you’re just spinning your wheels, are skills to learn as early as you can.

Q:  What was the best part about the experience?

A: The best part is definitely towards the end of the journey. While it is stressful trying to wrap up research and put everything together into the dissertation, when I look back over my graduate career—and really see all of the challenges I was able to overcome, how I have grown as a person, the knowledge I learned, and the researcher I have become—it is almost surreal. In the weeks before finishing up, I encourage every graduate student to take a minute to simply breathe, and think about their accomplishments and how they’ve grown throughout the journey. When I could see how far I had come since that first week of graduate school, I truly began to appreciate and embrace the graduate school experience.

Q:  What are you doing now that you’ve graduated?

I work as a member of the technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, performing both analytical and experimental work in a solid mechanics group.

A:  Were there any experiences at Tech that helped with your current success?

A: One experience that was greatly beneficial was the opportunity to teach an undergraduate course under the mentorship of my advisor. The experience not only gave me a greater understanding of the material, but also further developed my public speaking skills.

Q:  Did your time in graduate school change (or shape) your life? If so, how?

A: Oh, most definitely. I entered graduate school under the impression I was going to learn a lot of technical information. While I certainly did, I never anticipated learning so much about myself in the process. Research really requires dedication, hard work, patience and the ability to address a large, overwhelming challenge— all things that can be applied to obstacles both technical in nature, and in life.

Q:  What advice would you give first-year graduate students?

A: The best advice I can give is to work hard but enjoy the journey. There will not be another experience like it in your life. When research is not panning out, it is frustrating and while it can be hard to believe, there is certainly something to learn along every step of the way.