Claire Elliott

Claire Elliott

Wake County Schools
Claire Elliott
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I earned my Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from North Carolina State University. I was fortunate enough to find the co-op program, where students are given opportunities to work as engineers while they complete their degree. It gave me hands-on experience that proved invaluable after graduation. It also helped me meet other engineers. After graduation, I began working as a Project Engineer for Baxter Healthcare. My job was to improve automated manufacturing processes by upgrading existing equipment and bringing in new technology. Even though my degree was in mechanical engineering, the job taught me a lot about electrical engineering and equipment programming. I loved working on projects and traveling. Since then, I have had children, and I decided to take a few years away from engineering. Because of my skills in math, science, and communication, I was able to quickly scoop up a job as an elementary school teacher. I have used my engineering background to bring technology into classrooms. I also share my problem solving skills with students. Now that my kids are a little older, I'm excited to get back into engineering. I can't wait to see where it will take me next!

BS Mechanical Engineering - NC State University, Raleigh, NC Master of Education - North Georgia College and State University, Dahlonega, GA
  • I am willing to be contacted by educators for possible speaking engagements in schools or in after school programs or summer camps.
  • I am willing to serve as science fair judge or other temporary volunteer at a local school.
  • I am willing to be interviewed by interested students via email.
Answers by Claire Elliott

Hi Briony!

Your question is a great one! Mechanical and Civil Engineering are two branches of engineering that share many similarities. Both of them will require you to take a chemistry course (or two). In order to be an effective mechanical/civil engineer, you need to understand how different kinds of materials behave. Different materials have different properties (flexibility, strength, electrical and thermal conductivity, etc.) that make them useful for different applications. For example, you wouldn't want to build a bridge out of rubber, because it would bend when weight was put on it! Before you can understand the more complex properties of materials, you need some basic understanding of chemistry. When I was studying to be a mechanical engineer, I had to take one chemistry course, then a couple of materials courses that extended what I learned in chemistry class.

I hope this answered your question. I wish you luck on your chemistry project and as you study to be an engineer!

Claire Elliott

Hi! That's a great question! Choosing a particular field of engineering can be a really difficult choice. Many colleges admit undergrads into "general engineering" when they first start college. You'll probably take many of your general ed courses during your freshman/sophomore years. Then, you'll be asked to "matriculate", or choose a field of engineering, somewhere around your junior year. The type of engineering you choose at matriculation will determine which courses you take for the rest of your undergraduate program of study. Some fields are very closely related, so the coursework will be similar. Switching fields may simply require taking a few extra courses to cover the requirements for the other field. 

I'm not sure about graduate school requirements, but once you begin interviewing for jobs, employers look at your transcript as well as your willingness to learn new things. I received my BS in Mechanical Engineering, but took a job right out of college as a project engineer, doing lots of Electrical Engineering tasks. I told my employer that I was smart and eager to learn new things, so he hired me! As a result, I learned a lot of electrical engineering skills on the job that I never learned in school.

My advice: choose a field that interests you, then see where it leads! Good luck!