Class of 2017: Meet Rachel Rattay

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 Rachel Rattay:

Rachel Rattay

Rachel holds a Hololens, a new holographic device from Microsoft. She worked with the new technology during her internship last summer and her capstone project this year. She will continue working with the device when she joins Microsoft as a software engineer after her graduation in May. Learn more about how Rachel’s senior design team put the HoloLens to use for a Fortune 500 company in the 2017 issue of Engineering News.

Major: Software Engineering

Minor: Management Information Systems

Certificate: Video Game Development

Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pa.

On choosing Penn State Behrend: Coming from a small high school, I felt more at home with the smaller class sizes and I knew that professors would know me by name rather than see me as just another student among hundreds.

On choosing to major in Software Engineering: In high school, I was able to take computer science as an elective course and I really enjoyed it. I originally planned to major in Computer Engineering, but realized right away that I liked the software aspect more than the hardware aspect of computing. I immediately switched my major. It was one of the best decisions I made at Behrend.

Scholarships and awards: I received the Council of Fellows Leadership Scholarship twice, the Edward P. and Barbara F. Junker Leadership Scholarship, the Allyn and Alice Wright Leadership Scholarship, and the Commonwealth Campus First Year Student Award.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: My proudest accomplishment has been growing the women in engineering community at Penn State Behrend. Before I was elected president of Behrend’s Society of Women Engineers, we had just a few members. I’m proud to say that we now have more than fifty active members who attend meetings, conferences, and networking events.

Rachel Rattay at STEM fair

Rachel, third from left, with other members of Behrend’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers at the 2017 GE STEM Fair in Junker Center.

Campus involvement: During my four years at Behrend, I was involved in and held leadership positions in many organizations. I was a member and treasurer for both Lambda Sigma and Omicron Delta Kappa and a member of the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society. I have been vice president of the Association for Computing Machinery and president of the Society of Women Engineers for the past two years.

On mentoring future female engineers: I’m passionate about inspiring the next generation of women engineers. I enjoy speaking and volunteering at outreach events on campus, and have even organized two outreach events with local Girl Scouts to introduce them to engineering. Getting to watch the girls’ faces light up as soon as they figure out how to solve an engineering problem we give them makes all the planning and organizing worth it.

Advice for current students: The best advice I have is to form good relationships with your professors. They are here to help us learn and understand course information, so make sure to utilize office hours! Meeting with professors one-on-one will not only help you in your studies, but could open the door to research or internship opportunities.

Rachel has accepted a position as a software engineer at Microsoft in Seattle, Wash., where she will be working on the new HoloLens technology.

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.

Class of 2017: Meet Aizat Fadhil (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 Aizat Fadhil:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Home country: Malaysia

On choosing Penn State Behrend: The Mechanical Engineering program is accredited and highly regarded. I also liked the environment at Behrend; it’s diverse but not too large.

On choosing to major in Mechanical Engineering: I’ve been mechanically inclined all my life. I’ve always been more interested in how things work than what that particular thing can do. Mechanical Engineering is a versatile degree that covers a lot of different sectors and gives me a wide skill set.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: My proudest accomplishment was reviving the Diverse Organization of Photo and Video Enthusiasts (DOPE) club. I am president of the club, which had been dormant for three semesters when I took it over. The workshops and services we organized were unique and fun.

Campus involvement: In addition to being president of DOPE, I have been involved with the Multi-Cultural Council, Muslim Student Association, Model United Nations, and Makerspace during my time at Behrend.

Avid shutterbug: I’m passionate about photography. Capturing that perfect moment is priceless to me.

What inspires him: Sacrifice inspires me. The act of doing something for the benefit of someone else is very sacred, especially when it is done anonymously. There are people in my life who deserve to claim my achievements as their own because, without their sacrifices, I might have taken a different path.

After his graduation in May, Aizat plans to return to Malaysia and begin his career in engineering.

Engineering Grad to Serve in Peace Corps in Africa

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

Alex Laffey - first choice

This is the time of year that graduating college seniors are making decisions about their future. Should they accept the job offer in Baltimore or the one in Chicago? Should they go to graduate school or pursue a research position?

For Alex Laffey, a senior Mechanical Engineering major, there are no questions. She has known what she’s wanted to do after college since her first year of high school.

“I learned about the Peace Corps in my freshman history class, and I knew that I wanted to be a part of it,” Laffey said. “Former president John F. Kennedy created the Peace Corps as a means for individuals in America to volunteer internationally, and I figured this was the best way to go to combine my passion for traveling and service.”

Laffey, a Pittsburgh native, will leave in July to serve for two years as a secondary math education teacher in Sierra Leone, Africa. We caught up with her to ask her about the exciting adventure she will embark on after her graduation in May.

What solidified your decision to volunteer with the Peace Corps?

Last summer, I traveled to India for two weeks to visit a friend. It was the first time I had ever been away from my parents and home in a completely new environment, and I loved it. I loved trying all of the new foods, being a minority, and even learning a little bit of the language. Seeing the country also showed me how much the rest of the world needs our help. As soon as I came back from India, I immediately started my application.

Did you choose Africa, or does the Peace Corps decide where you go?

When I applied, I was asked to list the top three places I would like to serve. Sierra Leone was my first choice. It stood out in my mind from a book I had read—A Long Way Gone. I didn’t even put a second and third choice because I figured that if I couldn’t go to Africa, I’d be happy to go wherever they needed me. Luckily, it worked out that they needed math teachers in Sierra Leone and the Corps had a new group leaving in July.

Has anyone in your family ever served in the Peace Corps or do they volunteer?

Nobody in my family has ever served in the Peace Corps, but my parents always taught me to help others. Not only have they helped me with everything tremendously, but they also go out of their way to help others. They are constantly volunteering and making a difference in our community and abroad. They were my inspiration for wanting to go.

Do you choose what you will be doing there?

You volunteer in one of six sectors for the Peace Corps: agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health, and youth development. Like with location, I had to rank my top three preferences. I initially wasn’t sure what sector I wanted to volunteer in, but after speaking with a recruiter she suggested teaching because of my engineering degree.

Will you be in the same location for the entire two years?

I will be in the same country for the whole two years, but in different cities. When I arrive in July, I will be staying with a host family for three months to help with cultural integration and adjustment. After those three months, I will begin my two years of service, and the Peace Corps will decide where to place me. So, as of right now, I know that I will be in Sierra Leone. I just don’t know exactly where.

What do you know about Africa? Do they speak English? Do you go to any training to help you before you leave?

When I arrive in July, I will begin with three months of training. This includes safety, health, teaching, and even how to properly do laundry. The official language is English, but throughout the villages, many different languages are spoken so I will get a basic overview of all of those. Right now, I have been reading a lot different books about the location, and the Peace Corps has provided me with a lot of information. They also put me in touch with Peace Corps volunteers who were in Sierra Leone and that has been very helpful!

What are you taking? How does one pack for two years?

I am honestly not sure how I am going to pack all of my stuff! I can only take a carry-on, one personal item, and two suitcases. I’ve been reading a lot of blogs, and talking to returned volunteers about what is most essential. I know I will definitely be getting a hammock to enjoy the nice weather, and a bunch of solar chargers so that I can use my laptop and phone while I am there.

Where will you be living? What are the conditions like? Are they primitive?

After my first three months with a host family, I will move to my official site where I will stay for two years. It could be in a city or a village, and I won’t know that until later. Regardless, I will have internet access, so I can keep in touch with friends and family.

How many vaccinations do you have to get?

So far, I have only had to get two shots, but I have had a lot of blood work done. The Peace Corps gave me a list of twenty-some tasks that I must complete to be medically cleared to go. It has been taking awhile to get through all of those. Many of them are to ensure the country I’m traveling to can handle any medical needs I may have, and that I will respond well to medicines commonly available there.

What are you most excited about?

All of it! I cannot wait to meet the people I will be serving with and the students I’ll be teaching and to see the country. I’ve read a lot about the country and the people there and, at this point, I’m just ready to experience it all first-hand.

Is there anything that makes you nervous/apprehensive about this trip?

I am definitely nervous to be so far away from the amazing support system I have at home. It’s definitely going to be hard to do it all alone, but I know that my family and friends are only a phone call away, and that I have other volunteers to lean on while I am there.

What did your parents say when you told them you were doing this?

At first, they were really supportive, but I think that’s because they thought I wouldn’t go through with it. When I was accepted, I was hesitate to bring it up because I didn’t want them to worry. It is a lot for them to deal with. I mean, their daughter is graduating from college and moving 5,000 miles away to living in an African village for two years. But they’ve already planned a trip to visit me, and I think that has really helped ease their minds.

What are you hoping to get out of this experience?

I am hoping to gain a new perspective, and make a difference. I can get caught up in my “problems” and think that I’m having a bad day, but the truth is that I am very fortunate. I also want to teach others and encourage them to keep learning. If I can help just one student while I am there, it will be enough.

Will you get to come home at all? How will you keep in touch with your family/friends while you’re away?

I am not allowed to travel outside of Africa for the first six months or the last three months of my service. Other than that, I am able to come home or go to other countries to sightsee. I receive two vacation days a month and I can save them up for a longer trip. Friends and family are welcome (and encouraged) to visit!

What are you plans when you return to the states?

I have no idea! I am hoping to come back and spend time with friends and family, eat all of the food I will have missed, and then hopefully find a job in engineering.

Laffey plans to blog about her experiences in Africa. Follow her at alexandralaffey.wordpress.com. Read more about Laffey in her Standout Senior profile.

Class of 2017: Meet Ryan Kelley (Computer 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 Ryan Kelley:

Ryan Kelley - first choice

Major: Computer Engineering

Minor: Game Development

Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pa.

On choosing Penn State Behrend: I chose Behrend because of its high-quality engineering facilities and attentive faculty and staff. The engineering equipment and labs at Behrend were impressive.

On choosing to major in Computer Engineering: When I was growing up, my father, who is a mechanical engineer, and I used to tinker with a random assortment of computer parts in our basement to build our own “Frankencomputers.” I learned how to program in HTML, C++, and Java in high school.

Scholarships/Awards: I received the Council of Fellows Leadership Scholarship.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: My proudest accomplishment so far has been my research work: Leveraging Web Technologies with PLC Interfacing.

Campus involvement: I have been involved in the Behrend Design Group, Triangle Fraternity, the Association of Computer Machinery (ACM), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Game Development Club, and the Behrend Engineering Ambassadors.

Jack of all computer trades: I’m extremely adept at working with just about anything related to computers. I can make apps, design video games, develop hardware from start to finish, work on industrial applications, and more. If it has a circuit board and/or operates on computer code, I can figure it out.

What you’d be surprised to know about him: I’m a third-degree black belt and was a varsity lacrosse goalie for four years in high school. I can also speak German.

Beyond computers: I like to spend time outdoors. In my spare time, I enjoy biking and fishing. My favorite sport to watch is hockey, especially the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Failure is an option: When engineers are trying to solve a problem, they fail a lot. You get used to it and don’t get discouraged by it because it really is just part of the process. Learning what doesn’t work leads you to what does work.

Advice for first-year students: Hit the ground running (and studying) because classes are only going to get harder. If you start out with a work-oriented mindset and discipline, you’ll have an easier time in the later years than some of your peers.

After his graduation in May, Ryan plans to work as an embedded systems field engineer.

Class of 2017: Meet Alex Laffey (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 Alex Laffey

Alex Laffey - first choice

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Hometown: Pittsburgh

Home Sweet Second Home: I know it sounds cliché, but the moment I stepped onto campus at Behrend, I knew it was the only place that would feel like home to me.

On choosing to major in Mechanical Engineering: I loved math and science in high school, so I figured engineering would be a great fit for me.

Campus involvement: I am currently serving as president of Reality Check. I am also involved in Gamma Sigma Sigma and THON. I’m a Lion Scout and I played on the varsity tennis team my first three years of college.

On helping others: I’m passionate about helping others. I love to volunteer in my free time. I try to be the kind of person who people can lean on if they need help.

Off to Africa: I’m leaving in July to serve for two years in the Peace Corps as a secondary math education teacher in Sierra Leone, Africa!

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: Being selected to dance in THON 2015 was one of my happiest moments. It was an honor to stand for 46 hours for people who can’t. The event is a cherished memory I’ll hold with me forever.

Scholarships and Awards: I received the Irvin Kochel Lion Ambassador Award and the Council of Fellows Leadership Scholarship.

A voracious bookworm: I have the ability to ignore anything and everything when I’m reading a good book. During summer break, I usually read at least twenty books.

And an adventurous eater: I love food. I love trying new foods and I’m willing to try anything that’s edible. When I visited India this summer, everyone was surprised at how quickly I became comfortable with all the different foods there.

What you’d be surprised to know about her: I’m afraid to go into a car wash. When I was five, I was in the car with my grandpa when he got stuck in one and I haven’t been back in one since!

Wicked racket skills: I won the AMCC Athlete of the year for tennis my first year at Penn State Behrend.

Advice for current students: Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. There are so many opportunities for you at Behrend! You don’t have to join all the same clubs and do all the same activities you did in high school. Try many things until you find the right fit for you. You’re going to change a lot in college, and that’s a good thing!

After her graduation in May, Alex is joining the Peace Corps and going to Sierra Leone, Africa, to serve as a secondary math education teacher for two years.

Class of 2017: Meet Rachel Sheridan (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 Rachel Sheridan:

Rachel Sheridan - first choice

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Hometown: Rillton, Pa.

On choosing to major in Mechanical Engineering: I’ve always had a knack for problem solving and my best subjects in school were math and physics. My favorite part of physics was mechanics and when you pair that with my interest in problem solving, Mechanical Engineering is the perfect major for me.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: I am most proud of developing a good balance between my involvement on campus and academics. I’ll be graduating with a Grade Point Average of about 3.5.

Campus involvement: I was vice president of Lambda Sigma National Honor Society and Theta Phi Alpha Fraternity, where I held a few other positions, too. I’m a member of the Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society and the Tau Beta Pi National Engineering Honor Society.

Scholarships: I received the William F. Roberge and Shirley Roberge Trustee Scholarship multiple times.

What you’d be surprised to know about her: I own and have worked to restore a 1965 Ford Mustang.

Rachel Sheridan's car1

Driven to excel: I am passionate about exceeding people’s expectations of me. I strive to excel at everything I do and surprise those who may overlook my abilities.

Advice for first-year students: Try to get an internship in your major early on. Seeing what you will do in your chosen field may change your perspective and affect the direction you want to go in.

Rachel has accepted a position as an engineer at BCI Engineering in Pittsburgh, following her graduation in May.