Momentum Member Spotlight–December 2011
AIAA Congratulates Stephanie TerMaath
By Duane Hyland, AIAA Communications
AIAA has selected Stephanie TerMaath for its Member Spotlight for December, 2011. Dr. TerMaath is a senior engineer at Applied Research Associates, and a member of the incoming 2011 AIAA Associate Fellows class.
TerMaath has been a member of AIAA for 11 years, and is currently a member of the Structures Technical Committee. She has also served as the Deputy Director for Young Professionals for Region IV from 2005 to 2006, and was the Orange County Section’s Vice Chair for Young Professionals from 2001 to 2002. When not engaged in AIAA work, Dr. TerMaath is an active volunteer with the USO, supporting America’s military men and women.
Like most of the subjects of this monthly Member Spotlight column, TerMaath first developed an interest in aerospace as a child when she would stand in her parent’s back yard watching aircraft arriving at, and departing from, the Air Force base. Her Air Force parents, and the time that TerMaath had to watch planes “whizzing through the air,” left her “awestruck” and fueled her dream of one day contributing to the nation’s defense.
When asked what advice she would give those engineers embarking on their careers, TerMaath stated that engineers need to spend time learning engineering fundamentals and developing networks within the workplace. Pointing out the need for fundamental knowledge, TerMaath urges younger engineers to “learn how things work, and why they work that way.” This knowledge, TerMatth counseled, will allow engineers to develop sound engineering judgment which will be invaluable to them later on in their careers. These skills are critical to perform “reality checks” on the complex calculations they will perform during their career. She pointed out that while computer simulations will give you an answer for an engineering problem, an engineer who had taken time to master the fundamental knowledge of the profession would be able to tell if the computer provided answer was the correct one. She advised beginning engineers to always do a back of the envelope calculation to make sure the numbers being provided by the computer are reasonable, because “you never want to be the one presenting obviously incorrect numbers, and justifying the presentation with the excuse that the numbers were what the ‘computer told you.'"
Continuing her advice to younger engineers, TerMaath pointed out that in addition to developing technical skills, younger engineers need to invest time in developing a network of professional friends. TerMaath pointed out that “peers will provide invaluable technical guidance and serve as a sounding board for ideas,” which will offer an immense benefit to you. She also advised that younger engineers seek out a senior engineer to be a mentor. TerMaath stated that “if you can find one you can relate to and establish them as a mentor, they will look out for your best interests and give you the type of honest feedback that will be necessary for you to grow your skills and advance your career.”
When asked what advice she would offer students who are currently in college preparing to be engineers, or who are still in high school and starting to think about engineering as a profession, TerMaath gave this advice:” Follow your passion in choosing an area of expertise, but also learn as much as you can in areas outside of your specific field. Many revolutionary advancements are now achieved by multi-disciplinary teams, so it is important to know how your piece of the work fits into the big picture. While you are a student, you have unlimited opportunities to study many diverse subjects. Take advantage of your time in college to expand your overall engineering knowledge and to investigate topics that interest you.”
When asked what her favorite career moment or memory is, TerMaath relayed the following story that really encapsulated all of the advice she had given earlier in the interview: “My first job after graduation was at Boeing in Long Beach, CA. Shortly after starting work, I was very excited to be invited to a meeting in a building near the C-17 production line. I went over to the plant with an associate technical fellow, Mr. Ken Chan. As a testament to Ken’s dedication to developing young engineers, he took me on a tour of the production line after the meeting and showed me the specific part we had discussed. I thrilled to see and touch the actual aircraft structure, and the experience brought to reality that I had finally achieved my dream of working on a military aircraft. Additionally, I was extremely impressed that such a senior engineer would spend so much of his valuable time to make sure that I had a rewarding experience. Ken is now one of my lifelong friends and has been an exceptional mentor throughout my career.”
AIAA congratulates Dr. TerMaath for her achievements, and for being named the AIAA December, Spotlight Member of the Month!
(Pictured: Stephanie TerMaath, member of the incoming 2011 AIAA Associate Fellows class)