Women in Engineering Day Spotlight: Jean Chang
Friday, June 23rd, 2017 is International Women in Engineering Day, and we're celebrating by featuring some of the brightest in the field all week. Read on to learn more about Senior Research and Development Engineer Jean Chang.
What do you work on at Otherlab?
I work on thermally adaptive textiles - textiles that change their insulation value based on the ambient temperature. These textiles respond by getting thicker and warmer when the temperature drops, and getting thinner and cooler when the temperature rises. I'm responsible for a lot of the engineering work that goes into developing these textiles, such as designing new machines that produce thermally active fibers, developing new test procedures and equipment, and measuring the thermal and mechanical properties of the thermally active fibers and fabrics.
What attracted you to working in technology?
I've always been interested in figuring out how things worked, and I've always loved tinkering and building things. Mechanical engineering was a natural choice for me because it is one of the broadest fields of engineering; as a mechanical engineer, you can do all sorts of things such as design machines, code software, build computational models, and create new materials. I'm working on something different every single day, and that is really exciting for me.
What is your process for developing designs/prototypes/software?
I try to do as much background reading as possible, whether it's scientific journal articles, books, or just articles on the web. That way I can figure out what's already out there, what's worked and what hasn't, and go from there. It's also helpful to bounce ideas off your peers - sometimes you're stuck in one track so it's helpful to get a fresh perspective.
What are some of your favorite innovations?
These aren't exactly innovations, but I'm loving how many educational products there are out there now encouraging children to get into STEM. I wish I had these toys when I was a kid! When I was in grade school I didn't really know what engineering was - it wasn't on my radar until an older cousin encouraged me to consider engineering because I had shown an affinity for math, physics, and tinkering. I think it's important to encourage children to try out STEM fields, especially if they come from backgrounds where they don't have access to high quality STEM education.