Manufacturing Engineering magazine named NJIT grad Aubrey Kelley-Cogdell one of the top young manufacturing engineers in the country.
Aubrey, who graduated in 2012, was included in the magazine’s 30 Under Thirty July cover story about young people who are leading the nation in manufacturing and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.
Aubrey earned a master’s degree in biomedical engineering from NJIT and works as a Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) Programmer for Sandvik Coromant, a leading supplier of metalworking tools. She created cost-saving manufacturing processes for Sandvik’s clients, which is just one of the reasons she won the 30 Under Thirty award.
She is a problem solver by nature, a skill she developed at NJIT. In this interview Aubrey talks about her job, her studies at NJIT and why she was named one of the top young manufacturing engineers in the nation.
While working as an athletic trainer, you developed an interest in hips and knee replacements, which brought you to NJIT to study biomedical engineering. Can you discuss how that happened?
As a student athletic trainer at Lafayette College, I saw the benefits of biomedical engineering first hand. I used state-of-the-art equipment including portable x-ray machines, underwater treadmills, electronic stimulation and ultrasound equipment. I saw quicker recovery times in patients with robotic surgery versus traditional methods. I saw the technology improve quality of life. I thought this was a really cool application of engineering and I wanted to help develop it.
Why or how did you choose NJIT?
After completing my bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, I wanted to explore biomedical engineering. I also wanted to gain more experience and credential in the job market. The professors at NJIT were very knowledgeable and approachable. The course selection was excellent and the Master’s program allowed me the flexibility to take courses in electrical engineering as well as in BME.
How did you like your NJIT classes?
I loved my experience at NJIT. I found the coursework interesting and the professors were passionate about teaching. They were willing to go the extra mile to help students learn and that made my experience great. Having resources like the robotics lab and the Microelectronics Fabrication Center was especially valuable.
Can you describe the research project you worked on here?
Under a grant from the National Institutes of Health, I researched and developed an immunosensor for blood type detection. This lab-on-a-chip device would quickly determine a patient’s blood-type; it was ideal for an emergency transfusion or for rural applications, where diagnostic laboratories are unavailable. I designed and manufactured a prototype through NJIT’s Microelectronics Fabrication Center. I actually worked with several Biomedical Engineering professors on the project including Dr. Raquel Perez-Castillos, Dr. William Hunter, Dr. Rajendra Jarwal and Dr. Dencho Ivanov.
How were your NJIT classmates?
My classmates were great. They came from a variety of engineering disciplines and countries. I loved the diversity on my project teams because we utilized different strengths and backgrounds. I was a recent mechanical engineering grad but others worked in Biomedical Engineering for several years. It was helpful to hear about the industry from my classmates.
Did having a master’s degree from NJIT help you get your job?
Having a master’s degree set me apart at a time when the economy wasn’t great. It gave me experience and showed an ambition that employers like to see. Also, the connection NJIT has with employers was instrumental in getting the job I have now.
How does your master’s degree help you succeed at your job?
My work in the Microelectronics Fabrication Center at NJIT taught me how to conduct manufacturing research and keep clear documentation. In my Bio-robotics course, I learned about programming and machine control. Most importantly NJIT taught me how to think and prepared me to accept a variety of new challenges.
What is your main work project right now?
My employer, Sandvik Coromant, is the leading supplier of metalworking tools. As a CAM Programmer, I write code for machines that cut aircraft components. We partner with aerospace companies to develop fast and stable manufacturing processes using our tools. Most of the work is for commercial aircraft but we also do military work. I also work on testing tools in new applications and create demos for our training and education programs. It’s a great opportunity for me; I’m challenged and I have a variety of projects and responsibilities.
How did you win the 30 Under Thirty award?
My manager nominated me based on my career achievements. I was then selected among all US nominees. So far in my position, I’ve worked with several aerospace manufacturers to develop cost-saving process improvements. To cite one example, in a nickel-based military engine component I created a tool path that reduced cutting time from 3.5 hours to 2.75 hours. Aerospace materials are costly to machine so with this strategic process, the manufacturer will save thousands of dollars in time and tooling. It was a great honor for me to receive an award so early in my career.
What do you think about gender and engineering?
There are certainly more men than women in manufacturing engineering. Getting girls interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields is one way to improve this gap. In that regard, I initiated a partnership between NJIT’s Center for Pre-College Programs and Sandvik Coromant. This summer Sandvik Coromant hosted 72 7th graders in our manufacturing facility, half of whom were girls. The students toured our productivity center and explored hands-on demos to better understand the world of manufacturing.
By Robert Florida