Engineers in Action/Women in Engineering: Alicia Martin
“I have learned to use the word “impossible” with the greatest caution.” Wernher von Braun
Many dream of the opportunity to spend their days in a powersports shop, refining their riding skills on homemade corner tracks, and regularly travelling to renowned snowmobile and motocross destinations across the western United States. For mechanical engineering graduate student Alicia Martin this has been her entire life. A drive for pushing boundaries, surmounting obstacles, and pursuing what lies beyond the next horizon is engrained in her spirit.
Growing up in Evanston, WY, Alicia’s father was the owner of Mountain Air Power and Sports, a regional western Wyoming hub for the powersports industry. Alicia and her brother grew up competing in snocross and hill climb events in the Mountain West Racing (MWR) circuit, an affiliate of the International Series of Champions (ISOC). This culture provided a natural inclination towards an interest in powersports and engineering.
Alicia began her education at UW as a BS in Mechanical Engineering student. During this time, she was awarded numerous scholarships that have funded her education, including; the Hathaway Scholarship, the Samuel C. Phillips Memorial Scholarship, the Dr. Dwight W. Senser Mechanical Engineering Scholarship, the Joe and Arlene Watt Scholarship honoring H.T. Person, the PacifiCorp Scholarship, and the Rocky Mountain Power Scholarship.
Alicia also participated in multiple CEAS student societies, including; member of the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honors Society 2009-present, Treasurer for the Society of Automotive Engineers 2008-2011, and member of the Society of Mechanical Engineers 2008-present.
Prior to graduation, Alicia participated in two summer internships with British Petroleum (BP), gaining valuable energy industry-related experience. She spent the summer of 2009 working at BP’s Painter Complex located just north of Evanston, WY. Throughout the summer Alicia provided day-to-day engineering support, while also performing structural, piping, and compressor analysis. In 2010, she was asked to take a second internship with BP at their Houston, TX facilities. In Houston, Alicia provided engineering support for the maintenance and reliability of rotating equipment, while also supporting BP sites across the United States providing structural, compressor, and procurement analysis.
These internships gave Alicia insight into the operational channels that exist within these plants including an understanding of their functions in a real-time environment. Graduating with a BS in Mechanical Engineering, she was offered a lucrative full-time position at BP America. She chose to remain at UW to continue her education toward a MS in Mechanical Engineering under the mentorship of Dr. Carl Frick.
Alicia is currently working in the Advanced Materials Lab, part of the Mechanical Engineering Department. Her research activities involve characterizing new materials for use in emerging technologies, with a focus on developing and characterizing “active materials” that have the ability to respond to certain prescribed stimuli. Alicia is studying a polymer matrix composite with multi-walled carbon nanotubes as reinforcement. The goal of this research is to induce an amorphous-to-crystalline transition of the composite via resistive heating when an electric current is applied.
Alicia has been named a Graduate Fellow in the Science Posse and will continue working with this organization through the summer of 2013. The Science Posse comprises a group of graduate students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields that share a passion for science and education. They regularly travel throughout Wyoming sharing their knowledge with middle and high school students, providing unique, enriching educational experiences. They also host annual workshops for teachers of grades 5-12 to enhance their experience with science and engineering topics.
After completion of her MS degree in the spring of 2013, Alicia intends to pursue employment within the powersports industry. Embodying the knowledge and intellect required to engineer the complex systems associated with these sports, while simultaneously understanding the dynamics of these sports from the athlete’s perspective, provides her with the skill set sought after in this highly competitive industry. Consistently demonstrating a fearless and unyielding determination, Alicia has established herself as a role model for current and future generations of women engineers.