Rebecca Ahern is a Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering (MSMSE) alum. She graduated from Boise State in 2009 with a bachelor of science in materials science and engineering and now works for Boeing in Washington state. Rebecca credits her Boise State experience as a guiding influence in reaching her career goals.
Opening Doors to Success
“My experience at Boise State had many direct effects on my career and life,” says Rebecca. “Involvement in student organizations helped launch my career path.” By actively participating as a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and the Material Advantage Student Program, she learned that a degree in materials science and engineering opens doors to a variety of great career opportunities. Rebecca was invited to interview for an internship at Boeing through SWE. Her interest in the aerospace field was fueled further by hearing industry members speak at on-campus seminars. Dr. Diane Chong, now retired vice president of research and technology in the Boeing Engineering, Operations, and Technology organization was one of the industry influencers Rebecca was fortunate to have met during a campus visit. Dr. Chong’s presentation on materials selection for the Boeing 787 aircraft resonated with Rebecca. “I have no doubt that my interactions with Dr. Chong directly influenced the rest of my career.”
Finding a Career Trajectory
A few years have passed since Rebecca’s first internship at Boeing. Following this great opportunity to explore Boeing, Rebecca was sure she wanted to pursue a career in the aerospace industry. In fact, her first position after graduating from Boise State was with Boeing, at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. In this position, Rebecca worked on friction stir welding of aluminum lithium alloys for cryogenic fuel tanks for rockets. Some of the equipment she helped qualify will be producing tanks for the space launch system at NASA Michoud Assembly Facility. Since then, she has remained at Boeing where she continues to thrive. “There are so many different opportunities at Boeing and it is a great place to work,” Rebecca noted. She currently works as a bearings and wear technology engineer supporting the design and manufacturing of the new Boeing 777X aircraft. A routine work day involves drawing reviews, communicating with suppliers, troubleshooting manufacturing issues, and consulting on new design options. Specifically, Rebecca has focused on material selection and design for the folding wing tip hinge and locking features. She has also been involved in the overall design for anything from the flaps, horizontal pivot bearing, engine mounts, landing gear, stowbin fittings, and even a heads up display unit in the cockpit. Prior to the 777X project, Rebecca worked on standards development and qualification for bearings and was also involved in research and development for new wear materials.
Making an Impact
“My journey to a bachelor’s degree helped me identify a lucrative career path,” Rebecca says. “The Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering really focuses on student success and involvement in the materials research community. I had the fantastic opportunity to attend The Minerals, Metals, and Materials Society (TMS) annual meeting in New Orleans with several students and faculty during my time at Boise State. That was a trip to remember.” Looking back on her Boise State experience, Rebecca acknowledges the importance of being involved in extracurricular activities that support success. She especially enjoyed volunteering for outreach activities such as engineering camps and demonstration days. “Making an impact with the next generation has always been important to me. I still mentor and volunteer at university of Washington,” Rebecca notes. She continues her mission to promote materials science and engineering by serving as the chair of the Puget Sound chapter of ASM International.
“I had already chosen engineering as my field of study when I came to Boise State but I really wanted to further my education in physics and chemistry as well as engineering,” Rebecca says. “Amy Moll convinced me that materials science and engineering was the career path for me, I mean, she’s Amy Moll! Because materials science and engineering includes elements of physics, chemistry, and engineering, I was able to remain in all of those fields.” On top of her already challenging schedule of classes and professional development activity, Rebecca played the baritone horn in Boise State’s Keith Stein Blue Thunder Marching Band and in the All-Campus Concert Band. She was a member of Kappa Kappa Psi, the honorary band organization. She also gained some hands-on engineering experience with the Boise State AeroDesign Team that builds unmanned, remote-controlled aircraft for competition.
Rebecca’s career path seems idyllic. It might even seem perfect to most aspiring graduates. Rebecca acknowledges that her success is the result of hard work, active participation. “I highly recommend that students take advantage of the unique opportunities around them in the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering. Doing so will give them a significant edge in their careers and lives.”