Kim Linder

Kim Linder

Mechanical Engineer
Honeywell FM&T
Albuquerque, NM, United States
Kim Linder
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My experience as an engineer began when I was in Junior High School. I had a wonderful algebra teacher, Mrs. Duran, and this is really where my love for math and logic problems began. Was it hard? Yes. But I enjoyed the entire concept of 'word problems.' As college approached, and the couselors saw that I had done well and enjoyed computer programming, they encouraged me to sign up for Engineering. Engineering was a career that was in-demand and I also discovered that Electrical Engineering (EE) involved a lot of math. I attended New Mexico State University and received a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in EE. I made sure that I wasn't only involved in academics. In college I was a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority, on the club soccer team, and participated in every intramural activity that was offered! In hindsight, I believe college not only teaches you academics, but how to deal with a multitude of diverse tasks. After I got my degree in EE, it seemed that every job I interviewed for was interesting at a first glance, but it didn't seem like it would be something that I wanted to do forever. One day, I happened to speak to a professor about his research in computational electromagnetics. This was an area I had learned about during a summer job, and while I had never thought I would ever go to graduate school, I enrolled. I worked hard and received a Masters of Science in EE. But again, I had the same problem when it came to getting a job. The industry jobs sounded like they would become stale. Then, I started speaking with a professor in the Mechanical Engineering (ME) department about his research. Mechanical?! Wait, I thought, I'm an Electrical Engineer! But it sounded fun and better than any job, so I enrolled. I found that getting a Ph.D. did not mean specializing in one particular area, but was just the opposite. Ten years after entering college, I left with BS, MS, and Ph.D. degrees. While this may seem like a long time, the important thing was that I was learning something useful and having lots of fun as I was doing it. I really think that all my education and hard work has led me to a position at Honeywell I truly enjoy. I have a lot of freedom in my job. If there is a particular type of work I believe we can be successful at, I am allowed to pursue that work. So to anybody interested in pursuing a degree in Engineering, I have a number of suggestions. First, take as many math and engineering classes as you can. Second, become involved in extracurricular activities - ranging from math groups to sports to arts and crafts, or whatever your interests are. Being an engineer requires working on teams, the more experience you have working on teams and in all types of groups, the more successful you will be. And finally, remember everything you do is a learning experience, whether you are learning calculus or observing human interactions, so pay attention. This is your chance at a fun life -- make the most of it!
BSEE - New Mexico State University MSEE - New Mexico State University PhD ME - New Mexico State University
  • 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 Dr. Kim Linder

Hello.  Following your passion is definitely important! I have a number of thoughts around the different topics you brought up, so here goes.
I'm a people person - Engineers almost always work in teams.  So to be successful, being a people person is very important. I have found that those engineers that are naturally this way, are far more successful and bring a lot to the profession.
Machines and robots - There are a lot of different areas of mechanical engineering than machines and robots; thermal dynamics, fluids, design, numerical simulation, structures, controls - so don't be dismayed if robots are not your thing - there are a lot of other areas.  What I find most interesting is not the specific subject, but the applications.  I view these as the tools to solve other problems - and is what I have experienced in my career. The company you end up working for will drive the possible applications.  I have worked with the following fields:  medicine, agriculture, geophysics, defense, construction, concrete, gemstones, and probably more!
Passion - I have always liked to be a problem solver, so that has really been my passion.  I have been lucky to work somewhere where I get to problem solve in so many different areas and meet experts in all these different fields.  I too am a people person, so this has helped when interfacing with others outside my field and on my teams.
Medicine - I too debated medicine. Perhaps a field such as biomedical engineering could be of interest? What drove me from medicine was actually the classes like biology, microbiology.  I found them to be memorization and no problem solving. I think if I could have go through it, I would have seen them as tools. 
Connection to society - I very much see the connection to society in my work. This again can depend upon the company you will work for.  Perhaps getting an internship or summer job at an engineering company could help?  Also, see if you can spend some time with a medical student or resident to get glimpse into that world.
Good Luck!

Dear Isha, Good question. Mechanical engineering will not require any more physical strength than any other field of engineering. While you may end up determining the strength of various materials, it will all be on paper (or on a computer) using mathematics and formulas. You may be asked to test some materials in a laboratory, but as with any good engineering experiment, this would be in a very controlled environment requiring no special physical activities. In Mechanical Engineering your studies will range from strength of materials to heat transfer to fluid dynamics. In the profession you can opt to spend more time in the laboratory, or in the field, or more time with a computer (or all three!), either way you will be participating in some fun problem solving. Good luck! -Kim

That's a great question. And has multiple facets. I would first address why the struggle occurred? What was the basis of the struggle? Was it difficult math? Difficult science? Do you feel you had the knowledge from background classes? I would classify these as a struggle with the information required for the class. In this case, you can always take remedial classes to make sure you have the necessary background. When I was in a freshman electrical engineering class, the professor had made assumptions that everyone in the class had tinkered with electronics and had some basic background or other experience - which I did not have. Initially I felt like I should not be there, that I didn't have what it took. When I addressed this with the professor, he clearly wondered why I would have chosen electrical engineering if I did not play with electronics in HS; but I noted that it was not a prerequesite and this assumption was making it difficult for me. He acknowledged this and changed his style of lecture. Starting with a show of hands of how many other people had any type of background in electronics at the beginning of his next lecture. I would estimate only 20% of the class raised their hands. Did you work in teams and this was a problem? Was it managing a project that was a problem? Did you understand what was expected? Was it just too much work? I would classify all these as issues that could appear in ANY class, regardless of the area of study. Sometimes you can spin your wheels working on problems that aren't really what is asked, if you don't understand expectations. When you get a problem, try to outline what you believe is expected and how you are planning on approaching finding the solution. Step back and see if it makes sense or is too much work, or if you are over emphasizing any particular area. Run it by the instructor first chance you get, rather than wasting time running down the wrong path. Good luck! Kim Dalton Linder, Ph.D.