Acupuncture Adventure!

This is from last year but I thought it was worth sharing as it was an interesting experience. I was training for a half marathon last year and my knee kept bothering me once I got beyond 5 or 6 miles – I tried a lot of different things and nothing seemed to work so since I was in Asia, I decided to do as the Asians do and try acupuncture. I had heard from others that Korea is one of the best places to get acupuncture – their doctors who practice it go through a lot of medical training and although I’m not a big needle person (read between the lines…I can’t stand needles), I thought I’d give it a go.  Ryan came with me the first time which means we have some pictures of the process…

First, they talked to me about what was bothering me and then took me to a hospital bed (in Korea, this is basically a table) where I laid down and they put a heating pad on my knee…

Heating Pad

Then came the needles (check out the reluctance in my face!)…

AcupunctureNext, she added some incense buds and stuck them to my knee and told me to push my buzzer when I felt heat because it meant the incense had all burned up and it was time for the next step…I’m not sure what was in the incense but I was certainly more relaxed by this point.

Incense Acupuncture Step Then she put these cups on my knee and they started shooting little electric pulses onto my knee…it was a weird sensation but didn’t really hurt at all.

Acupuncture 2

The next step was to put these bulbs on my knee and then she sucked out the air from them.

Acupuncture 3Finally, she gave me an injection of bee venom – this part was a bit painful. At the end, she gave me some packets of herbs, including ginseng, and told me to drink two per day. I walked away with my knee looking like this:

Acupuncture AftermathIt was certainly an interesting experience and my knee did start to feel a bit better so maybe there’s something to the acupuncture craze….you’ll have to try it out for yourself and see!

Geaux Engineers! (Elizabeth – Mechanical Engineer)

This week, Elizabeth is going to tell us all about her path to engineering and how she’s been involved in several industries using her Mechanical Engineering degree. She was able to take advantage of some wonderful internship and co-op programs in college to get some good experience and now she works with me in Korea! She’s a great example of the wide range of choices you can pursue with an engineering degree; it is so versatile and can be applied to almost any industry! Read on and you’ll see! 

Hello!! I’m Elizabeth Beard, a Mechanical Engineer who graduated from Louisiana State University. Right now, I live in Okpo, South Korea with my cat (he is from the USA), but soon I will have the opportunity to rotate between Sakhalin Island, Russia, and Houston, Texas, to complete the project I am currently working on.

Beard Intro Collage

If we take a moment to rewind back to high school, this is when I first became interested in engineering. For science class, we all had to enter into the local science fair, but little did I know how much this would change my life. My project was on the accuracy of the Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) system and proving it mathematically. My project ended up winning at the State Science Fair and was noticed by the Army Corp. Next thing I know, I receive a letter in the mail from the Military asking me to attend a summer camp. Hesitant at first, but then I warmed up to the idea since this was only going to be a week. Turns out, this was the most awesome camp ever. It was geared towards our age group to introduce us into engineering types through different activities. We got to use and see all the technology the military and army uses (I mean like the helicopters to private software!!).

EB Army Camp Collage

Left: Our team won one of the activities and was congratulated by one of the Generals.
Right: My robot! He could throw a ping-pong into a jar. I built it, and my friend programmed it.

I encourage anyone who is interested in engineering to attend this camp. Please check out their website here. After this camp, I realized that I like figuring out how things work and mechanical engineering soon became my declared major in college… which leads me to the college days….


Geaux purple and gold! (fun fact: my sister is an electrical engineer from LSU!)

Not to bore you with details, but in college I was 100% confident that I did not want to join an Oil & Gas Company. Being raised in Louisiana, I thought oil and gas was nothing but plants and chemicals (this didn’t interest me). So I reached out to some mentors, asking for their help. More than anything, I wanted to work with home appliances. I was lucky to receive a Co-Op with General Electric in Louisville, KY. A Co-Op is where you go to school for a semester and then work with a company for a semester. During my rotations, I worked with Dishwashers and Washing Machines (see the pictures below). I also got to attend the Kentucky Derby and see snow for the first time! During my first rotation I helped invent a Dishwasher rack that was part of a patentable idea! Check it out here.

Signing a Patent (US # 8191560)!

Signing a Patent (US # 8191560)!

During my second and third rotations, I worked on washing machines. This was GE’s first washing machine without an agitator. I was in charge of consumer relations to make sure the design was ergonomic. On my third rotation, I actually developed and tested the algorithm for the washing machine (you know, the jeans/towels/delicates cycles).

EB Washing Machine Internship

After my Co-Op I continued my time at LSU being active via ASME and CxC (a Communication in Engineering Program). Senior Design finally came along, where our design project was a “One-man Mobile Deer Stand.”

Advertising for ASME during LSU Homecoming

Advertising for ASME during LSU Homecoming

The Deer Stand: In summary, one person could erect the 15ft stand in less than 10minutes. It also could be converted into a trailer that could be pulled behind an ATV.

EB Deer Stand

So how did I end up at ExxonMobil after being 100% positive I didn’t want to join an Oil & Gas Company? Well, at an ASME meeting, I heard about the Upstream Section of ExxonMobil. I applied for an internship, and was amazed at the complexity and challenges that it provided. I then accepted the full-time offer that was given to me! On Day #1 with my full-time job with ExxonMobil, I was told that I would be going to Hong Kong and Singapore. This started the flood of traveling that I would do!

EB Crab in Singapore

Two weeks after that trip, I joined the Sakhalin AD Project as a mechanical engineer, which led me to move to Okpo, South Korea! Work has been crazy, but it has also provided MANY travel opportunities that I never thought I would do. So far, I’ve been able to travel to England, France, China, Japan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, Hawaii, Thailand…and more adventures are planned.

EB Asia Travels Collage

EB Europe Travel Collage

As for the Project, it has been phenomenal to see it from paper to 3D model, to fabrication, to commissioning, and soon to start-up and drilling. I’ve grown not only as an engineer, but as a person. As nerve racking as it was to move to South Korea to work on this massive project, I wouldn’t trade it for anything!!

Checking out the view of our platform

Enjoying the views from the platform

EB Derrick Lift

The massive lift of the Derrick to the Platform

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my engineering adventures. If you would like to learn more about me, please visit my blog!

Now before I go, here are some words I would like to pass on…..

Don’t let people intimidate you.

What you put into something is what you will get out of it.

Be open to any opportunity, no matter how crazy or scary it seems.

Living Large in Rotorua!

Our next stop on our New Zealand vacation was the town of Rotorua. We had heard from several of our friends that this was quite the hot spot for adventure. We got there a bit late in the evening, so we checked into our wonderful little hotel and then went for a quick look at the nearby Redwood Forest. The trees were giant!

Redwood Forest NZ CollageWith a full day of fun ahead of us, we woke up early the next day to check out one of the thermal parks. Rotorua is known for being one of the few places in the world with a high concentration of thermal activity. We knew we had made it when the smell of sulfur overcame us – we walked around and saw the colorful thermal pools, including quite a few of the bubbling mud pools.

Rotorua Thermal CollageEvery day in the morning, the geyser in the park erupts so we went that direction to get a good spot to watch. At first I was skeptical that the geyser erupts on such a strict schedule – nothing in nature operates that way. The park ranger walked up and put in some soap to stimulate the eruption, mimicking the way it was found many years ago when people accidentally put some soap in there when going to wash their clothes. So we were right – it’s not naturally that predictable but it was still impressive!

Rotorua Geyser Collage

After a wonderful morning exploring the thermal parks that we couldn’t jump in, we went off for an adventure where we could, called the Squeeze. It combined a Riverjet ride with a walk to some natural hot springs – I know, sounds like the most perfect trip ever…and it was!! We had an absolute blast! The jetboat is a NZ invention – it is basically a water ski in boat form. It is incredibly fast and can do also turn on a dime, so they do plenty of 360 spins during your trip. The icing on the cake is that the scenery around you is to die for!

NZ Riverjet View

After a beautiful ride along the river, our driver told us to get out. So we jumped out of the boat and started following him up onto the banks where we followed the shallow river inland – the longer we walked, the warmer the water became. We also came upon some skinny, mossy passageways that we had to maneuver through – SO COOL! At the very end was a natural hot springs waterfall. Our pictures didn’t come out all that great, but you’ll get the idea even with the blurry photos – it was incredible!

Squeeze Collage

We spent a little while soaking in the pools before heading back for another wild ride on the river. It was an amazing day!

NZ Riverjet Ride 2On our last day in Rotorua, we did separate activities in the morning – Ryan went running/hiking and I went to Hobbiton (which was so awesome I think it deserves its own post so stay tuned!) and then in the afternoon we went mountain biking at this really great park in the Redwood Forest. Ryan has gotten really into mountain biking while living here in Korea and I’m always up for trying new things so we rented bikes and helmets and headed out onto the trails. It was raining, but that didn’t stop us from having a great time! I had a couple of falls but Ryan was always there right away to help get me back on my bike. With this, we fulfilled our mission to go hard in Rotorua!

NZ Mountain BikingThat evening, we got ready for our last activity in Rotorua – this time one where we could learn more about the fascinating Maori culture. The Maoris are the native people that originally settled New Zealand. You may have seen the New Zealand All Blacks Rugby team perform the Haka before – this is a Maori tradition. We got to see it performed by some of the Maoris still living in New Zealand – it contained all of the intimidating tongue showing which we did with the chief before heading to dinner. Dinner was a feast cooked in an underground oven and was delicious!

Maori Feast Collage

Just before we left, they took us to one of their sacred springs which has glow worms in it….these little critters were really bright and a really neat sight to see! The Maori feast and performance was the perfect ending of our time in Rotorua – a few days full of adventure and culture…just the way we like to vacation!

Future Chem Eng Professor (Liz – Chemical Engineer)

Joining us today, we have Elizabeth Stewart who is currently pursuing her PhD in Chemical Engineering at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI. Liz and I met in college where we both got our bachelor’s degree in engineering – Liz in Chemical Engineering and mine in Mechanical Engineering. We had all kinds of fun and even got to take a flight over Worcester together in our trustee mentor’s plane to get an aerial view of our campus right before we graduated. She’s done some amazing things while continuing her education and I don’t want to spoil any of her stories, so read on to find out what she’s been up to…

Liz and Erin Flight over Worcester Rev1

Liz and I taking a flight over our college campus right before graduation our senior year!

Why did you become an engineer?

I became an engineer because I wanted to work on solving technical problems that have a big impact on society.  I chose to major in chemical engineering, so I could learn to think in a manner that is useful for solving a large variety of problems.  Chemical engineers work on problems across many scales ranging from the  creation of nanoparticles to the design of large manufacturing plants.

I know chemical engineers who are working in processing plants making chemicals, running nuclear reactors, designing medical devices, manufacturing consumer products, making wine, engineering microbes for next generation fuels, designing novel catalysts, the list could go on and on.  I think it is pretty amazing to be trained in a manner that is so versatile that it can be used to work on so many different types of problems.

Michigan Big House

The Big House in Ann Arbor aka where I have spent many, many fall Saturdays cheering on the team. The enthusiasm for Michigan football is highly contagious!

What kind of research do you work on?

I have always been particularly fascinated by biological problems.  Currently, I am using my engineering tools to research bacterial biofilms.  Bacterial biofilms are aggregates of bacterial cells surrounded by protective matrix materials (polysaccharides, proteins, and DNA) that are resistant to treatment with antibiotics.  Biofilms can form on medical devices and cause patients to become extremely sick.  I look at biofilms as a material and try to understand at a fundamental level how the structure and mechanics of biofilms impact their resilience.  Here is a shameless plug for a paper I wrote, if you want to check out some of my work.

I am also interested in engineering education and the best techniques for teaching engineers.  Engineers are often required to be interdisciplinary when tackling problems, so there has been an emphasis at universities on creating interdisciplinary learning environments.  In addition to my technical research, I have begun doing research to investigate interdisciplinary learning in graduate education.

What do you want to do when you finish your PhD?

My goal is to become a chemical engineering professor, so that I can teach other people the tools to approach the world as an engineer and continue to do my own research on scientific problems.

What places have you lived in or traveled to while studying or working as engineer? 

As an engineer, I have had the opportunity to live in Worcester, MA (WPI), Columbia, South Carolina (University of South Carolina), Bangkok, Thailand (Chulalongkorn University), Rochester, NY (ExxonMobil Chemical Films), & Ann Arbor, MI (University of Michigan).

When you do research for a living, you get to travel to meetings all over the world to discuss your work with other scientists and learn about the work that they have been doing as well.  During graduate school I have travelled to Nashville, TN, Salt Lake City, UT, Washington, DC, Lindau, Germany, Copenhagen, Denmark, Mount Desert Island, ME, Miami, FL, Boston, MA, and San Francisco, CA to learn and discuss research with others.

Here are some pictures from some of the exciting adventures I have had while traveling for work:

Here I am with my friend, Amy,  before the Country Music Awards (CMAs).  Lucky for me, the CMAs were the same week as the American Institute of Chemical Engineers meeting held in Nashville!

Country Music Awards

I took a trip with my labmates, Lilian and Aayush, to Canyonlands and Arches National Parks before our conference in Salt Lake City.

Liz Utah National Park Collage

I attended a short course on fluorescence microscopy at Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratories in Maine.  The labs were right on the water, so it felt like summer camp for scientists.  In addition to learning microscopy and discussing science, I was able to use my fine honed New Englander skills to help with the lobster boil on the last day!

Liz at MDIB Labs in Maine Collage

I presented my work in Copenhagen, Denmark for the Eurobiofilms conference.  I saw some famous sights around the city, including Nyhaven (the New Harbor).  The conference attendees were welcomed very warmly with a reception at the Copenhagen Town Hall with town hall pancakes.  They were very tasty!

Liz Denmark Collage

Vinnie (my boyfriend) met me in Scandinavia and we travelled to Bergen, Norway after the conference.  In the pictures below, we are in front of Bryggen and then kayaking in the fjords. The fjords of Norway are one of the most beautiful places I have ever been!

Liz Norway with Vinnie

I went to Yosemite National Park with my brother, Andrew, soon to be sister-in-law, Hailey, and fellow Michigan Engineer, Huanan, before the AIChE Meeting in San Francisco.

Liz Yellowstone Collage

My research group had a reunion with current and past members in San Francisco.  It is great to connect with people with training similar to yours to see how they are doing and where their careers are taking them.

Liz Research Group Reunion

What is an interesting opportunity you have had through your career as an engineer?

One of the coolest opportunities I have had as an engineer was attending the Lindau Meeting of Nobel Laureates.  I highly encourage all young researchers to apply for this unique opportunity.  Young scientists and researchers from all over the world meet in Lindau, Germany to learn from the Nobel Laureates.  I attended the interdisciplinary meeting with laureates from physics, chemistry and physiology/medicine and it was an incredibly inspiring experience to hear about the scientific journeys of the laureates and my peers from across the globe.  I received funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to attend the Lindau Meeting.

Lindau Meeting Collage

Left: NIH funded US delegates at L’Enfant Plaza in DC;
Right: Beautiful Lindau Harbor Entrance in Germany!

The American delegation of young researchers at the Lindau Meeting.

Nobel_Monday209I really enjoyed listening to stories and getting advice from Nobel Laureate Sir Harry Kroto with my roommate for the week, Markita as well as chatting with other young scientists.

Liz Nobel Prize Networking

I also had the chance to check out Lake Constance with Nobel Laureate Oliver Smithies.

Liz with Oliver Smithies

After the meeting, I took advantage of being in Europe and went on vacation with my Mom to Italy and southern France.

Liz in Europe Collage

Left: Me and my mom on the Arno in Florence, Italy; Right: Vineyard in Provence, France

Any advice to aspiring women interested in engineering?

  1. Work for people who you consider role models.  I am very fortunate that I am able to work for people who I have a great amount of respect for.  If I am able to teach, mentor and care for students in the way that my advisors work with me and their other students, I am certain I will succeed in my career.  If you don’t have the privilege to control this, seek out other mentors for this support.
  2. Build a support system of people who respect and care for you in and outside your field. Sometimes work is hard.  Research can consist of long days in the lab, analyzing data, or writing up results.  I will be honest.  The majority of your data will not be groundbreaking.  Share your life with people who will be there for you in the ups and downs of your work.
  3. Dream big and work on problems that inspire you.  Personally, I have found that I work best when I am working on problems that could lead to helping people in some way (even if the work may not be used for many, many years).  This drives me to work hard.  Some people are driven by seeing a product made in front of them, making the most efficient process possible, or working to lead companies to success.  Try to reflect on what inspires you to work hardest and pursue a career in that direction.

Thanks for reading this far and thanks to Erin for featuring me on her blog!

Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty

After our awesome NYE in Sydney, we headed straight to New Zealand on the first day of 2014 – all set for 10 days of adventure! We landed in Auckland, spent the night, picked up our rental car and then drove to Tauranga which is on the Bay of Plenty on the North Island. The weather was great and we headed to Mount Maunganui to hike…it was right on the water with a beach just in front of it, so we knew the view was going to be a great one!

Mt Maunganui

It was a really nice hike and the views were wonderful!

Tauranga Collage

Mt Maunganui Hike 1

Mt Maunganui Hike 2

Afterwards, we enjoyed some really delicious beer at a local brewery. Being in Korea, one of the things that we miss most is local, awesome beer on tap so we were in heaven.

NZ Beer

The next day, we went out on a dolphin watching trip – we had wet suits so that if we found a pod of dolphins, we could jump in and swim with them. I was super excited about it and so we headed out early in the morning on a beautiful day. Unfortunately, we didn’t find enough dolphins to get in the water with them, but we did get the chance to have some swim with the boat we were on for a little while which was great. One of the dolphins even had a baby with her!

Dolphin Watching TaurangaTravel Tip: If you’re heading there and looking for a nice little place to stay, we really enjoyed our stay at City Suites.

Engineers Can Do Anything! (Sydney – Chemical Engineer)

It is a pleasure to have Sydney Baker telling us about herself today – she is a recent graduate of my alma mater and she’s already had some pretty cool experiences. She’s full of energy and excited to be starting her career as an engineer working in a management field – she will show you can really do anything with an engineering degree! 

Introduce Yourself:

Hello everyone! My name is Sydney Baker, Worcester Polytechnic Institute Class of 2013. While I was in school, I majored in Chemical Engineering. I am currently working for General Electric Power & Water in their Operations Management Leadership Program. What that really means is that I hold roles in manufacturing, quality engineering, and sourcing. While it is not traditional engineering, I think it’s a really cool way to use my engineering education in more management focused roles. I currently live in Schenectady, NY (near Albany), but my program is rotational for the first two years, so who knows where I could be living next!


Why did you become an engineer?

I decided to become an engineer when I was a junior in high school. I liked science and math, so I figured – why not? I also had a chemistry teacher in high school who worked in industry for years before becoming a teacher. She was actually a member of a team that invented nicotine patches to help people quit smoking! To hear her talk about working in a technological field was fascinating and definitely inspired me to explore this world of opportunity!

What projects have you done while studying or working as an engineer?

When I was still in college, I got to work on my senior project in waste water treatment. Not only was it something that makes an environmental difference, but it was sponsored by GE, which helped me to get my full-time job offer. I also had the opportunity to travel to Cape Town, South Africa to pursue a project for my degree! While it was not as technical in nature, I definitely put my analytical skills and creativity that I learned from engineering to the test!


Have you had the chance to travel anywhere? If so, where and why?

Other than South Africa, I have gotten to go to training courses all over the US in order to learn all about manufacturing.


What is a fun/interesting opportunity you have had through your career as an engineer?

I think that the coolest thing I have discovered about a career after getting an engineering degree is that engineers can do anything! And I mean that! The skills that you learn about by studying math, science, and engineering are applicable in a wide range of fields. So if you’re not entirely sure what you want to do, go for engineering!


What have you enjoyed most about being an engineer?

Every day is different and I get to work on things that really make a difference in other people’s lives. Every day I get to go to work to solve problems in order to provide power to people in developing countries all over the world – pretty cool!


Any advice to aspiring women interested in engineering?

Remember, a girl can do whatever a boy can do…but while wearing high heels!


NYE in Sydney!

As I said before in my last post about Sydney, spending New Years Eve in this amazing city was very high on my bucket list! We booked a cruise ahead of time so we could enjoy the fireworks in one of the best seats in the city. With tickets in hand, we didn’t have to board until 7 PM meaning we had all day to explore a bit more. So, to make our NYE even more amazing, we headed to Bondi Beach to spend the day.

Bondhi Beach 2

The weather was perfect so we enjoyed the day at the beach before heading back into town to get ready for the main event!

Bondhi Beach Collage

We went to Darling Harbor to get on the boat and then took a cruise around Sydney harbor – we got a great view of the Harbor Bridge and the Opera House.

Sydney NYE Harbor Cruise

Harbor Bridge on NYE

Our cruise boat was in the Harbor of Lights parade so all of the ships had lights all over them and we made a big loop around the water before parking right in the front row.

Harbor of Lights Parade

We were one of a few ships allowed to be as close to the bridge & Opera House…we were literally right in the front row.

Front Row Seat - NYE Fireworks

The fireworks were amazing – it’s hard to put into words just how awesome it was. It was absolutely the best firework show we’ve ever seen!

Sydney NYE Fireworks 1

Sydney Fireworks 2

It was the best way to ring in the New Year – 2014 is going to be one to remember! I’m so glad we went and highly recommend everyone putting this on their bucket list!

Embrace Your Inner Nerd! (Krista – Civil & Environmental Engineer)

I am very happy to have the wonderfully talented, Krista, on the blog today! She is a great example of someone who has pursued a career in engineering while maintaining her passion and  involvement in acting! I’ll go ahead and let her take it away…

Hi, My name is Krista Forti and I am a NERD. I am an engineer by day and an actress by night!

Photo 1 - wedding pic

Growing up I enjoyed math, science, problem solving, as well as singing and acting. I was the nerd who asked for extra algebra problems because it was so fun! I was also the nerd who was part of every single theatrical production at school. What can I say? It’s definitely a weird combination. When all my classmates graduated high school, many decided to pursue theater and acting in New York City. Not me!

Photo 2 - pigtails

One of the reasons why I decided to become an engineer is because I wanted a dependable job. Thinking back on it, this doesn’t seem like a real great reason. But at the time, it was extremely important to me. While my spontaneous friends were willing to spend (or have their parents spend) $50,000 a year for a theatre arts degree, I wanted to pursue a career that would provide a stable future; one where I wouldn’t have to depend on my parents, spouse, or friends. One where I wouldn’t have to work as a bartender between auditions just to afford housing. Going straight to New York City was a huge risk for me, and one that I was not willing to take.

Photo 3 - orange outfit

But why else did I want to become an engineer? It really came down to one moment in my life when I realized engineering could be fun. The moment was a simple conversation I had with my parents on the way down to the Outer Banks for our summer vacation. There had been recent article that was published in a local newspaper that stated that arsenic was found in the drinking water in the Outer Banks. The article urged vacation-goers to buy bottled water in lieu of drinking the tap water. This fascinated me. Who cleans the water? Who is responsible for making sure the tap is safe? Isn’t arsenic dangerous to drink, and shouldn’t someone work to eliminate the source of the arsenic instead of simply telling residents and vacation-goers not to drink the tap water? With all of these questions racing through my head, I was told that these are the types of problems that engineers solve. Hey, this could be fun, right?

Since that moment I graduated high school, attended Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Civil & Environmental Engineering. So here I am today, living outside of Boston with my wonderful husband, and working for an environmental consulting firm. And guess what I do? I am a water and wastewater treatment design engineer. In other words, I work with local municipalities and design treatment plants. Ok, I’m going to be straight with you. I intended to work in the water field, but somehow wastewater became a lot more interesting.

Photo 4 - pumps

So I am essentially a poop engineer. Go ahead and laugh! But the best part about my job is the ability to grow and learn about so many different types of engineering. Wastewater treatment design involves using a variety of skills such as mechanical engineering, chemistry, biology, management, construction administration, cost analysis, etc. Furthermore, I get to work with mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, structural engineers, and instrumentation and controls engineers. My everyday job involves a lot of office work where I am sizing equipment, performing plant hydraulic calculations, and designing pipe layouts for a new building. However, I also get the opportunity to visit wastewater treatment plants, attend town meetings, and witness equipment testing. These outings are my favorite part. Let’s be honest. I am a people person and a hands-on learner. I learn from going to the treatment plant to understand how equipment operates. My clients (municipalities) collaborate with me regarding their project needs and expectations . I love building strong relationships with my clients so that they will continue to work with us on future projects. Working as a wastewater treatment engineer and consultant , I have the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects and work with a variety of different people. This makes ‘going to work’ a little bit more exciting!

Photo 5 - clarifier

So what about the dreamers that went to New York to pursue acting? Some of them made it, some of them are still trying, and some of them pursued different careers. But me? I’m an engineer by day, and an actress by night! Musical theater is one of my passions, and I have been performing in the Boston area for the past three years. Do I get paid? No. Do I need to get paid? No way! I continue to perform on stage because it’s fun, and its considered one of my favorite sports! I don’t have to worry about auditioning for every single opportunity because I don’t rely on auditions to survive. I can rely on my own schedule and audition for the shows that I am interested in. I see it as the best of both worlds. I am able to continue progressing in my career as an engineer, continue crunching numbers and solving problems, but I can also continue my passion for acting.

Photo 6 - wedding scene

So what do I have to say to all of you aspiring women out there? First off, don’t be afraid to be a nerd! Embrace it! Just because you major in a technical field or pursue a technical career does not mean that you have to neglect your passion for painting, or soccer, or sky-diving, or broadcasting, or whatever your passion may be. Don’t be afraid of what makes you happy. Your future is in your hands. Sheryl Sandberg says it best in her novel titled Lean In. We should never hold ourselves back “by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in.” So do me a favor, follow your inner-nerd, and lean in.

From Ice in Antarctica to Shale in Texas (Kim – Geologist)

I’m really happy to have my friend, Kim featured on the blog today – you will probably recognize her from our trip to Vietnam because we had a great time with her and her husband – we also really enjoyed living with them in Korea and were sad to see them leave. Well, not only is she our travel companion, she’s also quite the geologist. She’s another wonderful example of someone who has studied science and had some really cool opportunities…in fact, she’s probably my favorite geologist! I’ll go ahead and let her introduce herself…

I am Kim Fangman, a 26 year old geologist who recently married an engineer.  We have a small white poodle named “Penny.”I grew up in Houston, Texas and went to college at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. There, I double majored in Geology and Economics. After graduation I came back to Houston and received a master’s degree in Geology from the University of Houston.

Me in ice

I am now a geologist with Marathon Oil. I work in the Eagle Ford Operations team. The Eagle Ford is an unconventional shale play in south central Texas. I help “steer” lateral wells, and tell the rig where to drill down in the Earth. It is sort of like a video game. I receive new data every couple of hours, which I model in software. I then decide if we need to go up or down, left or right, to tap the best rock for producing oil and gas.

As a side note, I think masters programs in science are one of the best kept secrets. Many masters programs for geology will give you a full ride to attend the school, and a small stipend, if you are a teaching assistant (TA) for undergraduate classes. I was fortunate enough to be in one of these programs, and TAing really enhanced my experience beyond paying for school. Having to teach and clearly explain the basics of geology really solidified the knowledge and I am sure it will help me in the future. Most jobs in geology do require a master’s degree, which takes around 2 years to complete.

Why did you become a geologist?

I definitely did not go to college expecting to become a geologist. I viewed geologists as “mountain men,” very rugged like Pierce Brosnan in Dante’s Peak. I am not the most outdoorsy person; I was in a ballet company throughout school.

But, I was in the liberal arts school at Vanderbilt, which required everyone to take an intro science course freshman year. I, like many students, assumed Geology would be the easiest, so I took it. It did not turn out to be easy, but it just seemed really interesting to me and I was good at it.

I found out I have a knack for really understanding things spatially, visualizing in 3D, and am good at maps (which is important, because a professional geologist’s product really is just different types of maps). Geology was more fun for me than economics. I fell into the perfect fit, which is why I really recommend keeping an open mind in college and taking a variety of courses. I became more open to camping and hiking along the way, too!


What projects have you done while studying or working as a geologist?

While in school I primarily worked on two research projects. The first used video footage of the ocean floor taken by divers below sea ice around Antarctica. I mapped the ocean floor and identified and counted the various critters I saw. There were mainly scallops, eels, worms, sea cucumbers, and star fish. I really enjoyed the project because I was helping to explore part of the world that had never been seen or studied.

My master’s thesis research was also on Antarctica. I took sediment samples in front of glaciers and analyzed them to see when the glaciers retreated, and how fast.


Have you had the chance to travel anywhere? If so, where and why?

Geologists get to travel, and to many exciting places! It is sort of integral to the job. I went to Antarctica for 3 months during my masters program. I was on an ice breaker that went right up to glaciers and allowed me to catch sediment samples for my research. I was close enough to touch penguins, whales, and seals! I also traveled around Chile on the trip.


With my undergraduate classes I hiked around the Appalachians, and went to conferences in San Francisco and Portland to present my findings. With Marathon I get to go on a one week training course each year in a different location to learn about the geology of that area. I am going to the beach in South Carolina this year. Some of my friends at work are going to Spain and France!

What have you enjoyed most about being a geologist?

I have enjoyed the travel opportunities, and the people I work with. I have coworkers that are passionate about what they do, and who are very friendly, caring people. It makes work something I look forward to. I think part of the reason for my pleasant work environment is geologists aren’t trapped behind a desk every day. We get out into the field, visit a rig, and really feel like we are part of the action and making decisions.

Group Picture at Eagleford Shales

Any advice to aspiring women interested in a career in science?

Don’t shy away from science or engineering because you don’t think it fits with your persona. Just like I didn’t have to be Pierce Brosnan to be a geologist, you don’t have to be a character from the Big Bang Theory to be an engineer or have a PHD. If you enjoy a subject, have a knack for math and science, just go for it!

Fabulous Sydney!

At the end of the year, we took a flight down to Sydney to celebrate closing out a great year and starting up another incredible one! Before the big festivities on New Year’s Eve, we had a few days to explore the city. I had been to Australia before and absolutely loved it but this was Ryan’s first trip down under. One of the best aspects to this trip was the fact that we got to leave winter behind in Korea and step into the beautiful summer weather! Hello shorts and flip flops!

Erin Pink Shorts Sydney

Our first stop was the Sydney Harbor area – we had to pick up the tickets for our NYE Harbor Cruise (more on that in the next post…I had been excited about that for months!). At the harbor, we walked around to check out the major Sydney sights – the harbor bridge and the opera house. While walking around, we stumbled upon a market in the Rocks – we perused the stalls, grabbed some great food, and also a beer at the oldest pub in Sydney. It was a fantastic place to hang out!

Ryan and Erin - Sydney

The next day, we went to the Featherdale Wildlife Park to meet some of Australian’s most famous creatures. We had a blast checking out the animals – kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, echidnas, cassowaries, kookaburras, and many more!

Featherdale Animal Park

It was a great place to see all of them – a bit outside the city but it was a great smaller wildlife park (a quick travel note – head there early…the animals are a bit more active in the morning before it gets too hot so it’s worth waking up earlier to go). While there, we were able to snap a picture with this cutie koala – a required picture for any trip to Australia and we were happy to check that off our Australia bucket list.

FDWP - KoalaWe truly fell in love with this city and enjoyed every minute that we spent there! Our best day of course was New Year’s Eve…I’ll fill you in on all of that on the next post!

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