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.

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Season 3

Episode 6: Perfecting Piano Product Design and Development: Emilie Camera ‘17, ‘18

Emilie Camera ‘17, ‘18, a mechanical engineer at Steinway & Sons, shares her journey of blending her passion for music with her expertise in engineering to craft bespoke pianos. From collaborating with designers to navigating manufacturing challenges, Emilie provides insights into the intricate process of creating custom pianos, including limited editions and one-of-a-kind pieces. She reflects on her experiences traveling abroad to Steinway's factories and emphasizes the importance of understanding end-users' perspectives in shaping product design. Through her story, Emilie inspires listeners to explore diverse career paths within engineering and highlights the rewarding intersection of art and engineering in crafting musical instruments. Please note that due to technical difficulties, one of our host’s audio isn’t as high quality as we’d prefer in this episode. Thanks for bearing with us.

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Episode 5: Water is Life: Alissa Diminich, ‘08, ‘09

Alissa Diminich, ‘08, ‘09, is a principal engineer at Tennessee-based Inflo Design Group, primarily working on drinking water and wastewater projects. She holds a bachelor's and master's degree, both from Cornell University, in civil and environmental engineering. During her time at Cornell, she was a member of the AguaClara project team. Post-graduation, she has also served on the Board of the nonprofit AguaClara Reach, which aims to advance the design and innovation of community-scale, gravity-powered water treatment technologies. In addition to sharing her career journey, Alissa talks about how becoming a parent has impacted her view of her work as well as how employers can support work-life balance.

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Episode 4: Leading the Way for Technology Access and Equity: Christine Chang ‘04

Christine Chang ‘04 holds a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and a master of science in STEM Education from Boise State University. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Computer Science at University of Colorado Boulder where she investigates human-robot collaboration and communication supported via augmented reality, particularly in high-risk environments. Christine’s career spans working at NASA and Boeing, teaching elementary and high school students, and advocating for diversity in STEM. She shares how all of these experiences have led to her current research and interest in influencing technology policy at the federal level and beyond.

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Episode 3: Driving Sustainable Change as a Consultant: Dayin Chen ‘17

Dayin Chen ‘17 is a Senior Consultant at Deloitte Consulting's Sustainability Strategy and Transformation Group. Dayin shares insights from her journey, including her transition from undergraduate studies in Operations Research to completing an MBA at Wharton School of Business, and her return to Deloitte. She discusses her current project focusing on sustainability within a large food company, highlighting the complexities of engaging farmers in regenerative farming practices and navigating the corporate strategy around reducing emissions.

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Episode 2: Navigating the Intersection of Healthcare, Data, and Sustainability: Allie Gaines ‘14

Allie Gaines ‘14 discusses her educational and career journey from graduating with a degree in Information Science Systems and Technology to working as a Product Manager in Healthcare and Business Strategy at XponentL Data. She describes her transition from a technical role in data interoperability at Athenahealth to focusing on healthcare clinical solutions, particularly in cancer registries, which sparked her interest in using healthcare data to make a difference. She pursued a Master's degree in Global Health and Epidemiology at the University of Oxford, followed by a Ph.D. in Public Health and Epidemiology at Imperial College London focusing on nutrition, public health, and climate change impacts on the food system. Allie highlights her work in creating a method to calculate greenhouse gas emissions from packaged foods based on ingredients.

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Episode 1: Exploring Mars: An Insider’s Perspective: Nathan Williams ‘11

Nathan Williams ‘11 completed an engineering bachelor's degree in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, earned a PhD studying the Moon and Mars at Arizona State University in 2016, and now works as a Science Systems Engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. His work primarily involves Mars exploration, including missions with Mars Rover Perseverance, Mars Ingenuity helicopter, and Mars Sample Return. He discusses the importance of staying nimble and flexible in his role, acting as a bridge between scientists and engineers to ensure effective communication and collaboration. Nathan also shares insights and advice for students interested in pursuing careers in engineering and scientific exploration, emphasizing the value of networking, staying informed, and maintaining a work-life balance. The interview concludes with a discussion about Mars time, the unique work schedule aligned with Martian days during critical mission phases.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.