An Outlier Engineer: Using Experince to Springboard Into a New Feild

Outlier Engineer

I’ve been sharing the story of my life as a Hispanic woman engineer, and why my career and background led me to being so driven to help teach girls entrepreneurialism and confidence. I’m continuing my story here.

As a product development engineer at 3M, I designed copper connectors for automated test equipment. For a lot of people, that might sound pretty boring. But I loved the chance to apply what I knew and felt a sense of creative connectedness to my work.

Then came Dolly, the first cloned sheep, and I was intrigued.

After reading cutting-edge reports in New Scientist magazine, I fearlessly decided to transition to biomedical engineering. With no background in biology or chemistry, I had a lot to learn. During graduate school, I dreamed of curing cancer, so I focused on drug delivery and nanotechnology, measured in nanometers—a measure so tiny that the page of a book, for example, is about 75,000 nanometers thick.

I used my experiences in mechanical engineering to develop a new way to manufacture disease-responsive nanoparticles. My inborn grittiness made me determined to build an enterprise around my research. I started a company, NANOTaxi, and pitched investors. I learned that the costs and time were beyond what investors would undertake, but I kept the dream.

By then I had two engineering degrees, including a doctorate in biomedical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. I had years of research and development experiences. I had a professional network that included not only scientists, but entrepreneurs and early stage investors of the bravest sort. I had achieved my goals of becoming a scientist, technologist, engineer, and entrepreneur.

I was hooked, not only on what I’d learned about nanoscience, but on the exhilaration of turning a vision into a vibrant company. This entrepreneurialism came to me naturally, as a result of my background and upbringing; I was encouraged by my parents to be curious, to trust my instincts and to have a growth mindset. This enabled me to reach out beyond the work I’d been doing to try something new.

I’d love to hear from you about your own careers, and your academic path. Are you doing what you love? Have you been encouraged in following your dream? Thank you for sharing your experiences.

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