Class of 2017: Meet Mary Beth Burbules (Mechanical Engineering)

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications,  Penn State Behrend

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2017 is ready to make its mark on the world!  We’re proud of our students and the things they’ve accomplished and learned while here at Behrend. Over the next couple months, we’ll be introducing you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technology, participated in important research projects, and left an impression at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Mary Beth Burbules:

Mary Beth Burbules - first choice

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Hometown: Erie

On choosing Penn State Behrend: My two older siblings, Timothy and Katie, attended Behrend’s School of Engineering. They both truly enjoyed their experience at Behrend and encouraged me to become a Penn Stater, too. I was also drawn to Behrend because of the smaller size that allows for students to have one-on-one connections with faculty members.

On choosing to major in Mechanical Engineering: Throughout middle and high school, I was involved with Science Olympiad, where students compete in events in a variety of STEM disciplines. I was always most interested in the hands-on events. I like being able to create unique design solutions to problems and the fact that, in Mechanical Engineering, you never stop learning. My sister was an M.E. major and I saw from her coursework and activities that it was the perfect major for me, too.

Scholarships: I’ve been the grateful recipient of several scholarships. I received the Shirley L. Roth Trustee Scholarship all four years and the Irvin Kochel Leadership Scholarship in my first year. I also received the Jake Boyle Memorial Scholarship in my junior year.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: The undergraduate research I was involved in. My work has focused on the design, fabrication, and functional aspects of testing equipment and machines used in the research of direct methanol fuel cells and lithium-based batteries.

Standout research work: In one challenging project, another student and I partnered to design and manufacture a lithium battery test machine to induce internal short circuits by physical cell penetration with increased functionality and precision compared to industry models. Our work was accepted to the ASME 2017 Power and Energy Conversion Conference. I was also honored to have my contribution to the project recognized by a Council of Fellows Undergraduate Student Research Award.

Campus involvement: I’ve been greatly involved in Behrend’s Society of Automotive Engineers Supermileage Team since my first year. I’ve served as the secretary and am currently the vice president of the club. I have a unique role in the club as I’m one of the drivers of the high-efficiency vehicle the club designs, fabricates, and races each year. I’m also a member of Tau Beta Pi, the National Engineering Honor Society.

Lifelong love of learning: From the time I was a young child, I’ve loved to learn, whether from books or after-school activities. College further strengthened that passion. Engineering is unique in that it is a continuously evolving field, and I know that as a professional engineer, I will always have the opportunity to develop my knowledge and skills.

Sister act: I’ve always looked up to my older sister, Katie. She’s taught me to be a compassionate person and demonstrated to me the necessary dedication to studies. A degree in Mechanical Engineering is one more thing I have in common with my best friend.

After her graduation in May, Mary Beth will be attending graduate school. She would ultimately like to find a job in industry in the area of product development and design.

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