Becky Mueller

she/her/hers

Where you can find her:

Education:

  • Mechanical Engineering BS, from the University of Wisconsin, 2007
  • Mechanical Engineering MS, with a specialization in biomechanics, from Purdue University, 2009

Current job title: Senior Research Engineer

What experience first got you interested in science and is that field the same one you went on to pursue? 

As a kid, I was interested in cars but I was also wanted a job where I could help people (I was thinking a doctor).  When I was 10 years old, I was watching the news with my parents and saw some car crash test results and it clicked for me.  I could find a job where I worked with cars but did something to directly improve people’s lives. I then focused on math and science classes throughout high school and realized mechanical engineering in college could get me closer to my goal.  

Tell me about some people who helped or inspired you along the way, in your early training and later in your career

My college faculty advisor for the hybrid vehicle team was a great mentor and inspiration to pursuing my dream career.  He taught more than just engineering, but professionalism, teamwork and showed me that there were more options than just automakers when it came to finding a career in the automotive industry.  

I have always sought out the advice of people who are in positions I aspire to achieve.  Listening to stories of their journey gives insightful clues about the next steps I need to take to achieve my goals.  I’ve never been afraid to ask for a working lunch with a VP level manager or grab a coffee with an expert in the field with 30+ years of experience.  You’d be surprised how many people will find time to share advice if you make the first effort.   

Can you tell me about any moments of doubt you had as a student or early in your career and how you dealt with it? 

I originally thought that attending a prestigious university and simply excelling in classes in Mechanical Engineering was enough to get a job at an automaker until I realized thousands of other “on paper” qualified candidates had the same goals.  At first it seemed defeating, I needed to find something to make me stand-out amongst peers. I joined the Hybrid Vehicle Team as an extra-curricular which promoted teamwork, honed leadership skills and fostered my knowledge of cars. While 20+ hours at the garage each week meant giving up my little free time, it was worth the effort as my participation in the team garnered the attention of automakers when I graduated, getting my “foot in the door” of the automotive industry.   

I graduated with my masters degree in 2009, the year the stock market crashed and GM and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy.  Everyone was on a hiring freeze. On face value, my dream job seemed unattainable. I applied to over 100 jobs and only heard back from about a dozen, with all saying they weren’t hiring.  I graduated without having a job lined up, which was so disheartening, but I never gave up trying. Five months into my job search, I finally received an offer from a vehicle proving ground (TRC).  It was a great first job that introduced me to another aspect of the automotive safety community. 

Can you share two or three surprising twists or turns in your early scientific training and your later career path.

My original interests with cars related to structural parts of cars (metal and rubber).  When I was an intern at GM, my mentors invited me to attend a crash investigation meeting at the University of Michigan Medical center.  I discovered that I was really fascinated by the medical aspect of the field, assessing injuries and ways to prevent them. It was a turning point in the direction of my career and I even switched graduate school interests from working in a laboratory focused on vibrations in materials to injury biomechanics.  Sometimes pushing yourself to experience new and different aspects of a field result in an unexpected pairing. 

Can you give some examples of how you have incorporated your non scientific interests into your work 

I’m a very artistic person outside of work.  I paint and sew among other crafts. I believe my artistic eye for colors and arrangement of items give me the ability to put together graphs, figures and presentations that not just covey the scientific message but also present them in a manner that is attention getting and not distracting to the main message.

Is there some advice you could share from your own experience to help someone with a science degree who is just starting off on their own career path.  

Ignore your critics.  If I had listened to just one of the many people who thought my interest in automobiles was strange, I wouldn’t have the chance to go to work every day fired-up and passionate about doing the things I love. 

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