Tag Archives: travel

From Chips to Patents (Jenn – Mechanical Engineer)

To finish up National Engineers Week, here is the lovely Jennifer! She and I were roommates our senior year of college and took many classes together throughout our time at WPI. Jenn is a fantastic example of the breadth of options that engineering can give you. As you read, you’ll see that she’s worked for companies where you may not expect an engineer, but I’ll let her tell you a bit more about that! 

Introduce Yourself:

  • Jennifer Castriotta
  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute Class of 2008 – Mechanical Engineering
  • Patent Examiner, US Patent and Trademark Office, Alexandria VA

JCass Picture 1Why did you choose to become an engineer?

Engineering is in my blood. I come from a long line of WPI grads including my grandfather, father, and mother. I actually bounced around a lot with what I thought I wanted to major in. I came in to college wanting to be a Physics Major, but then realized that I wanted the chance to actually build and create things, so I switched to Mechanical Engineering. One of the things I loved most about Mechanical Engineering was all the different directions you could take the major. I personally was more interested in Robotics, but I had friends who were interested in the biomedical field, Fire Protection, Aerospace, Manufacturing, and tons of other areas.

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What places have you traveled while working or studying as an engineer?

When I was a Junior, for my Interdisciplinary Qualifying Project (IQP), I had the opportunity to come work in Washington DC at the Smithsonian Institute with the National Zoo. Then the summer between my Junior and Senior years, I got the chance to do my Major Qualifying Project (MQP) in Wuhan, China.

JCass Picture 3 and 4 Rev1

I truly loved this opportunity! While in China I had the opportunity to visit Shanghai, Beijing, and some outlying areas including The Great Wall of China.

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Post graduation I traveled to Connecticut, New York, Texas, Virginia, and returned to Washington DC.

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

When I first graduated college, I worked for Frito Lay as an Operations Resource in both Maintenance and Packaging. One of the best parts about my job (besides doing Quality tests for fresh Doritos and Salt & Vinegar Lays) was that I was responsible for the production a product that every single person in America recognized. I was also given the opportunity to meet and work with the foremost experts in Potato Chip and Tortilla Chip Manufacturing. I’ll even let you in on a little secret… On every Frito Lay product bag there’s a 9 digit code that tells you a lot about the chips inside. New England Pride moment- If your bag reads #66######, the chips were made at the Killingly, CT facility!

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After about three and a half years, I decided that I needed a change and took a chance with a new opportunity working at the US Patent and Trademark Office as a Patent Examiner. In my current career I get the chance to see some of the latest and greatest inventions in the country. In the last two years I have had 13 published patents with several more on the way!

JCass Picture 10What have you enjoyed most about being an engineer? 

I think that the thing I have enjoyed most about being an engineer is meeting other amazing female engineers and getting to learn from them. Being a female engineer is a special bond that is hard to explain to outsiders. Traditionally speaking, the world of engineering is a male dominated field. The most influential women in my life are engineers – they’re the smartest, most outgoing, driven, independent, spunky, creative, and talented people I have ever met. Women as a whole have a tendency to be underestimated, and nothing makes me happier than constantly seeing female engineers meet and far exceed people’s expectations of us!

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Where to Next?! (Gaby – Chemical Engineer)

To kick off Engineering Week, Gaby will tell us her story of what she’s been up to while studying and working as an engineer. I knew her while at school and have had the chance to work with her in Houston – she has more energy and enthusiasm than anyone you will meet and it’s contagious so it always brings the group up wherever she is. What’s great is that she takes the time to learn at least 3 new things from everywhere she lives – she’s had some great experiences, so read on…

My goal in my twenties: visit a new country every year! This obsession started at WPI, where I studied chemical engineering (and where I attended university alongside some of the fantastic women who have previously written on Erin’s blog). I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, and experienced some of the impacts of cultural differences when I moved to Massachusetts. But it wasn’t until I had the opportunity to spend several months in the poorest areas of Thailand that I learned  just HOW MUCH you could truly gain when you step through these cultural boundaries. There was no turning back.

Thailand (right - Elephant Park; Left - Wat Pho aka Temple of the Reclining Buddha)

Thailand (right – Elephant Park; Left – Wat Pho aka Temple of the Reclining Buddha)

I interned with ExxonMobil my junior year in Miami, FL. I got to travel to Panama, Fairfax, Houston, and Ft. Lauderdale and did everything from gauging oil tanks, to observing the Panama Canal, and having some of the best meals I had eaten in my life! I received a full time offer from ExxonMobil and moved to Houston, Texas! There, I joined an organization which helps manage the engineering, construction, installation, integration, and commissioning of future oil & gas facilities all over the world. This brings me to the three miscellaneous things I learned in Houston:

1. Bullfighting and being a rodeo clown is a lot harder than it looks: I have been to the Houston Rodeo for four straight years and fully intend to make this year the fifth. The food, crowds, the music, and did I say the food? You can get fried Oreos!!! Yumm!

Gaby Houston Rodeo

At the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo – over 75,000 spectators!!

2. Indulging in the local cuisine is always a good idea: Tex-Mex restaurants (a combination of Mexican cuisine with the tendencies of food products in American cities) are abundant in Texas and are absolutely fantastic! And…it’s official, I cannot eat too much guacamole!

3. Always Root for the Home Team: This might come as a shock to you, but I am not a professional football player, baseball player, or any sport for that matter. So instead, I attended as many Houston Texans, Astros, and Rockets games as possible. If you want to feel included among the people of wherever your travels take you, go to a sports match (whatever the sport may be!), you’ll definitely feel included!

At the Houston Texans Season Opening Game

At the Houston Texans Season Opener

Then, in April 2010 I was offered an assignment which included a three week trip across Europe including Paris, among other cities. I could not have said “Oui!” any faster. There, I met with different members of the oil & gas industry to collect market information. About a year later, my Canadian adventure began. I was doing two week rotations to St. John’s, Newfoundland (where I call home today). In April 2012, I officially moved to St. John’s. Here, I am part of the project management team of the Hebron Project: the end goal is an offshore platform which will be taller than a 10 story building and have a topsides operating weight heavier than 30,000 cars! I work closely with our contractors to enable leadership’s ability to make decisions affecting the overall cost and end date of the project. And this brings me to the three miscellaneous things I have learned in St. John’s:

1. Don’t be afraid to kiss a fish: I learned the hard way, but now I know - Codfish DO NOT turn into Prince Charming. Wondering why I would do such a thing?! Well…Newfoundlanders are incredibly welcoming and have an official ceremony to allow newcomers to become honorary Newfoundlanders by engaging in their old tradition of getting “screeched-in.” Naturally, I partook in this ceremony, where I was required to kiss a cod and repeat the following phrase: “Deed I is, me ol’ cock! And long may yer big jib draw!” which actually means “Yes I am, my old friend, and may your sails always catch wind.”

Gaby St. Johns

Top – Overlooking the city of St. John’s from the East Coast Trail Hike; Bottom Left – Whale Watching off the coast of Newfoundland; Bottom Right – Cape Spear, the most easterly point in North America!

2. Snow doesn’t shovel itself AND ice and I do not get along: This was a pretty disappointing finding. Somehow in college, I never had a problem with this. I’m not sure what happened. True, shoveling is no one’s favorite activity, but my goodness does winter bring some beautiful sights! Even if you have lived in a winter city your whole life, go and play in the snow this weekend! I gave curling a try, and really enjoyed myself. Interestingly, I spent more time sitting on the ice than standing; and by sitting, I mean slipping.

Gaby Snow Collage

Top Left – my first shoveling experience and it took 7 hours!; Top Right: View on my running route; Bottom: my first “tobbagan” ride!

3. Hockey = football: Ok, so maybe they’re not the same sport but I have your attention. Canadians absolutely LOVE hockey! At least half of the TV commercials involve hockey in one way, shape, or form. If you can’t beat them, join them. Go St. John’s Ice Caps!!!!!

Hockey Fans in Canada

I majored in chemical engineering and minored in management. My favorite classes were differential equations and organic chemistry, but my current job involves working with people more than anything else. From all the skills I learned in university I find teamwork, leadership, and adaptability are the ones which have helped me the most. I feel like the opportunities are ENDLESS, and fully intend to take advantage of them. This brings me to my final list of three miscellaneous things I have learned:

1. Roll with the Punches: It is possible for your luggage to travel more than you – fact. Funny story – In June 2012, I planned the perfect trip to Brazil, only to realize en route, you need a tourist visa to enter the country. My luggage ended up in Brazil and I ended up in Hawaii the next morning. (Don’t worry, I made it to Brazil the following year). Can’t complain, but lesson learned: do your homework. And, you never know, sometimes the unplanned moments turn out to be even more memorable than what you had originally planned so keep an open mind and just roll with whatever comes your way.

Gaby Rio and Hawaii

Right: Cristo Redentor, Rio de Janeiro; Left: Set of Jurassic Park (and many other movies/tv shows including LOST) in Oahu, HI

2. Don’t be afraid to try something new: No matter where you go, you will meet some incredibly interesting and impressive people. I have picked up a new hobby probably every year since I left school. I skied, ran a half marathon, ran a full marathon, surfed, went hang gliding, skydiving, bungee jumping, rappelling, zip lining, spelunking, four wheeling, and white water rafting for the first time ALL within the last five years. Get out there, get involved, make a difference and I GUARANTEE you will be changed.

Gaby New Hobbies

Top Left: Ziplining at Petty Harbor; Top Right: Mud Run in Bay Roberts;
Bottom Left: White water rafting through the Macaé River; Bottom Right: Hang gliding over Ipanema Beach

Gaby Adventures

Spelunking inside Angeles Cave, Camuy; Surfing off the shores of Hawaii; Skiing for the first time in Lake Tahoe

And last but certainly not least,

3. Never say _ _ _ _ _: It’s funny, I have been chasing Erin everywhere she goes for years. Her move to Korea was the first I did not follow. But hey, never say never. I’ve also done a lot of things that I never expected but have thoroughly enjoyed them all! Engineering has been a great path for me to see the world, try new things, meet some amazing people, and be a part of exciting projects!  So the million dollar question is now….Where to next?!

Erin & GabyThanks for sharing your story, Gaby! I can’t wait to see where you end up next!

Kickin’ Off 2014

We have recently gotten back from our big trip to kick off the New Year! We spent New Year’s in Sydney and then 10 days in New Zealand having all kinds of fun adventures. I’m still getting settled back into work and everything but I will be updating the blog with all kinds of fun stories of our travels, so get ready! For now, here are a couple of teaser photos to peak your interest…

We made friends with a koala in Australia!

We made friends with a koala in Australia!

And here are a couple of our pictures from sky diving…it was awesome!

Erin Skydive Pic 1

Ryan Skydive Pic 1

Happy New Year! I think 2014 is going to be a great one!

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