Jul 29, 2014 | Atlanta, GA
Scottie-Beth Fleming is an Aerospace Engineering Ph.D. Student at Georgia Tech. Recently, the Office of Graduate Studies had the opportunity to learn more about Fleming and her time at Tech. Here's what she said.
When did you know Georgia Tech was the place you wanted to go for graduate school?
It is important to first mention that I became a Yellow Jacket long before I started graduate school at Georgia Tech. I attended Georgia Tech as an undergraduate based on my dream to work for NASA and was hired as a NASA co-op during my first year. When I was finishing up my undergraduate degree, I reflected a lot about whether to take a more permanent position at NASA or to continue with graduate school. What I realized is that I love learning, and I wanted to be in an inspiring environment where learning was valued. I also wanted the opportunity to work collaboratively and develop innovative solutions to challenging aerospace engineering problems. These realizations led me to graduate school and back to Georgia Tech. It’s just been an excellent fit for me.
Tell us a little bit about your research.
I hope my research directly impacts engineering design by improving aerospace engineers’ teamwork and cooperative decision-making skills. Aircraft design requires the integration of components from many different technical disciplines. However, design teams often fail to communicate their reasoning behind component design decisions, leading to costly and dangerous outcomes, such as the battery problems experienced by the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Through Georgia Tech’s excellent researcher network, I’ve been able to tackle this problem by integrating methods used by aerospace engineering, psychology, public policy, sociology, and engineering education.
What are the top three reasons you’d recommend Tech to other graduate students?
If you’re interested in doing interdisciplinary work, Georgia Tech is an excellent place to be. For example, as an aerospace student, I’ve had the chance to collaborate with peers in Mechanical Engineering, Public Policy, and Psychology. I also love the city of Atlanta. My husband and I enjoy going to concerts at Variety Playhouse and the Tabernacle, and there’s no shortage of amazing restaurants. (Antico is the place to go for pizza near campus, and The Porter is a great spot for a drink in Little Five Points.) And then there are the rankings and the prestige associated with Tech — if you tell someone you went to Georgia Tech, they know the institution you’re talking about and highly respect the quality of your work.
What advice do you have for students who are applying to Tech?
Reflect on the type of research (methods, topics, scope, etc.) you want to work on and your own particular learning/working style. Then, talk to your potential advisor before you commit to a program. This is a critical conversation, as an advisor can be your best friend or your worst enemy, and if you don’t get along with him or her it’s a recipe for disaster. The ideal is to find an advisor whose work style and research interests align with yours. Also, don’t be shy about talking to other students in the program you’re interested in to learn about their experiences.
What are a few things every graduate student should do while at Tech?
Meet people outside of your program. For example, I became involved with the American Society for Engineering Education, which has allowed me to meet a variety of people across campus. Also, have a story to tell yourself when you start to get discouraged. When I need encouragement, I imagine the impact my research will have 20 years from now.