Cornell Engineering Career Conversations

Celebrate excellence and innovation among engineers whose impact contributes to a healthier, more equitable, and more sustainable world. Join Career Center Director Christa Downey and Engineering Communications Program Director Dr. Traci Nathans-Kelly for authentic conversations with people who are making a difference.

Find Us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and SoundCloud

Do you have topic ideas or want to recommend someone to be a guest? Contact us!

Season 2

Episode 6: Revolutionizing Recycling: Stwart Peña Feliz ‘17

Stwart Peña Feliz recently completed his MBA at MIT Sloan School of Management where he is the 2023 winner of the MIT Climate Energy Prize. He is the co-founder and CEO of MacroCycle, a startup focused on recycling plastic using an innovative and highly efficient process with minimal carbon emissions. He discusses his journey from being a chemical engineering student at Cornell to an entrepreneur with a mission to address plastic waste and climate change. You can connect with Stwart on LinkedIn, and as he says, “If you spell my name correctly, I’m the only one who comes up.”

Download Transcript

Episode 5: Focused on Carbon Dioxide Removal Technologies with an Interdisciplinary Lens: Dr. Xiangkun Elvis Cao ‘21

Dr. Xiangkun Elvis Cao is a Schmidt Science Fellow at MIT, working at the intersection of technology, business, and policy for carbon dioxide removal. He discusses the need for incentives to support investigators with interdisciplinary academic identities to perform their research and hasten scientific breakthroughs. Elvis also describes his journey from a small village in China to completing his PhD in Mechanical Engineering at Cornell. He is passionate about mentoring other early career researchers and empowering individuals from historically under-represented groups in science and engineering.

Download Transcript

Episode 4: Innovating Sizing and Digital Fit Systems: Nathan Ghabour ‘13

Nathan Ghabour, who currently works at Nike,  is an experienced product leader in the computer software industry, skilled in computer-aided design (CAD), biomechanics, surface modeling, and product design. Nathan’s career launched with a Bachelor of Science focused in BioMechanical Engineering. Nathan discusses how his various experiences and interest led him to his current role as well as how he focuses on data ethics in his work. He also discusses the power of communication skills and the ability to distill ideas effectively to help teams perform well across an organization.

Download Transcript

Episode 3: A Mechanical Engineer Unbound by Conventional Career Paths: Dr. Malika Grayson ‘14, ‘16

Dr. Malika Grayson completed a master’s degree and PhD in Mechanical Engineering at Cornell with a focus on wind energy, computational fluid dynamics, modeling and simulation, and wind tunnel experimentation. After graduation, Malika participated in a rotational program through Northrop Grumman and currently works there as a Program Manager. Malika discusses the importance of mentorship and building a community to be successful. She is a Fortune 100 global keynote speaker, best-selling author, and founder of STEMinist Empowered LLC, an organization focused on supporting women of color who are pursuing graduate degrees.

Download Transcript

Episode 2: A Serial Tech Entrepreneur who Empowers Others to Grow: Debbie Madden ‘96

As a graduate of the operations research in engineering major, Debbie Madden describes herself as a “serial technology entrepreneur, CEO, founder, board member, thought leader, author and advisor.” Debbie is the founder, owner, and Chairwoman of Stride, a national technology services firm leading agile digital transformation at brands ranging from Series A startups through Fortune 100. Her company partners with the world's best tech teams like Peloton, Spotify, Warby Parker, Disney, NBC Universal, to deliver high quality software products to market and model engineering and product best practices that upskill and enable teams. She shares leadership lessons she has gained through both professional and personal experiences including as a breast cancer survivor.

Download Transcript

Episode 1: A Mechanical Engineer Who Embraces Entrepreneurship - Ilayda Samilgil '19

Ilayda Samilgil is CEO/Co-Founder of LLUME (Organic Robotics) and a graduate of the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell. LLUME utilizes patented Light Lace™ technology to accurately analyze user chest movement to deliver actionable insights on fatigue and performance levels. LLUME grew out of research that Ilayda conducted as a senior and she describes her journey as an entrepreneur.

Download Transcript

Season 1

Episode 9: Building and Managing Community Water Systems: Matthew Snyder '19, '20

Matthew Snyder, an Assistant Project Manager and Engineer at Freese and Nichols, describes his work related to water purification and resource recovery in Texas. Matthew shares what it’s like to work as an environmental engineer and the challenges of educating the public about waste water treatment and of maintaining community trust.

Download Transcript

Episode 8: Making the Connection Between Chemical Engineering and Patient Care:  Esther Park ‘06

Esther Park’s mother told her she should be a pharmacist; Esther says, “Mom was right.” Esther Park is the Pharmacy Quality, Safety, and Regulatory Compliance Manager at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Esther discusses how engineers can improve healthcare quality by managing urgent drug shortages, streamlining manufacturing processes, and creating vaccines, monoclonal antibodies, and other medications that don’t yet exist. She also shares how her chemical engineering education contributes to her problem-solving and communication skills as a pharmacist.

Download Transcript

Episode 7: Designing Safe, All-Electric, Emission-Free Vehicles:  Caitlin Stanton ‘20, ‘21

Software engineer Caitlin Stanton shares her experience working on embedded systems in electric-powered, self-driving cars at Cruise. Caitlin talks about mentoring, overcoming impostor syndrome, and going viral on social media as an undergrad.

Download Transcript

Episode 6: Ensuring Safe, Clean Water: Jessica Olsen ‘21

United States Air Force Infrastructure Design engineer, Jessica Olsen, discusses her passion for life-long learning and how she has managed the transition from college student to a full-time professional staying abreast of the latest research on emerging water contaminants and other water management and policy topics.

Download Transcript

Episode 5: Improving Battery Technology: Nidhi Maniar ‘22

Recently graduated with a master’s degree in chemical engineering, Nidhi Maniar shares her perspective as a new battery engineer at Amazon. Nidhi discusses the value of understanding the fundamentals as well as career resources that she found useful in her job search.

Download Transcript

Episode 4: From Future Doc to Healthcare Industry Disruptor: Alice Yan ‘19, ‘20

Currently working in legal and regulatory compliance at a healthcare start-up, Alice Yan describes her journey from a high school student who wanted to be a doctor to using her biomedical engineering education to improve healthcare outcomes.

Download Transcript

Episode 3: Creating Technology for Sustainable Food Production:  Matthew Gellert ‘17

Biosystems engineering manager Matthew Gellert develops elegant, functional designs for indoor vertical farms at Brooklyn-based Square Roots. Matthew discusses using his biological engineering education and software engineering skills to tackle challenges in agriculture.

Download Transcript

Episode 2: From Civil Engineering to City Hall: Abena Sackey Ojetayo ‘07, ‘09

Civil engineering alum Abena Sackey Ojetayo describes her work as “developing ideas that meet the triple bottom line of safety, prosperity, and environmental stewardship.” Abena shares her journey from being a student in the College of Engineering to becoming Tallahassee’s Assistant City Manager.

Download Transcript

Episode 1: Introducing Engineering Career Conversations

Cornell engineers are making a difference in the world every day. We share our motivation for celebrating excellence and innovation among engineers who are making an impact.

Download Transcript

The opinions expressed by the guests and contributors of this podcast are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cornell University or its employees.