Internship at GE Launched Aviation Career for Wendy Young

Mechanical engineering and materials science major Wendy Young started her senior year with a job in hand. After graduation, she will start on a career in aircraft design and testing as an Edison Scholar at GE Aviation in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“It was nice to walk in to my senior year with a job,” Young said. The Edison Engineering Development Program will offer her the opportunity to work as an engineer in four different areas of the company in two years on “projects driven by real GE business priorities” while taking advanced engineering courses that will simultaneously earn her a master’s degree.

And, for the Rhode Island native, the opportunity stemmed from a fortunate encounter during her sophomore year with a GE internship recruiter at a campus career fair.

“I stopped by one of the tables and it sounded interesting,” she said. “I dropped my resume with GE Healthcare and GE Aviation.”

That meeting led to an internship at GE Healthcare’s headquarters just outside of Milwaukee, Wis., where she spent a summer working on the mechanical design team testing components for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) systems.

Young conducted tests to determine how long particular MRI parts would last in the field. In one month, she exposed the docking system that connects the imaging machine to the patient table to the amount of use expected in 10 years of normal use. She then conducted stress and strength tests to ensure that the parts would hold up as anticipated.

She also investigated the source of a temperature sensor failure that was causing problems for some clinics. She traced the problem back to an electrical component that wasn’t meeting its specifications and worked with the supplier to correct the situation.

That summer offered Young the work experience she needed to confirm that her future would be in engineering.

“My sophomore year I didn’t know if I wanted to be an engineer,” Young said. “I had little hands-on experience. In that first internship, I used a lot of things I learned in class.”

Although Young said she was tempted to return to GE Healthcare the following summer, her longstanding interest in aircraft led her to a position at GE Aviation instead.

“Aviation has that wow factor,” she said, especially military jets and planes, which are “more technically advanced” than commercial airliners.

At GE Aviation, she worked on a jet engine at a relatively early stage of design, she said, noting that it can take 15 to 20 years to design and produce a high-powered military jet engine. She analyzed designs for two components, the high pressure turbine and low pressure compressor, through computer models.

“I built models and ran analyses of the parts,” she said. For example, she ran complex analyses to identify points of high stress concentration, tests that could take days to run, Young said.

Her results and recommendations were then fed to a central location along with information from engineers and interns about various other parts. The experience fueled her desire to continue on as an aviation engineer after graduation.

“The work is fun and you learn a lot,” she said of the experience. “You could do it for five or 10 years and still be learning new things.”