Dear Future Aerospace Engineers
By Sally Kim
Philip Wdowiak, NCP Class of 2015 and a current junior at the University of Michigan, majors in Aerospace Engineering. Wdowiak says four years at Northside has helped him with “being on top of a dynamic schedule” that he now has in college: “Block scheduling and juggling clubs/sports at Northside helped me form good planning habits that now help me be on top of my work.” For students also interested in pursuing engineering in college, Wdowiak’s best advice is to join an engineering project team on campus. “These teams open doors that classes cannot and show what the engineering industry is like,” said Wdowiak. “They are also excellent opportunities to apply coursework as well as good opportunities to network and build your resume.” He recommends that underclassmen who want hands-on experience in engineering the should join Northside’s Robotics club since robotics connects mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering.
Wdowiak decided to pursue the field of aerospace engineering because of the field’s incredible breadth and its relatively rapid rate of advancement and innovation. According to Wdowiak, this opens a broader range of career opportunities in industries such as commercial space, space research, commercial aviation, defense, and automotive engineering. “Within these industries,” said Wdowiak, “aerospace engineers are employed to help drive innovations in many subsystems such as aerodynamics, structures, propulsion, and controls.”
Continuing his interest in engineering, Wdowiak decided to take up an internship at General Atomics last year. Specifically, he worked in the Electromagnetic Systems department as an Optomechanical Engineering Intern as a part of their Laser and Advanced Sensors Group (also known as their Photonics Group). During his internship, Wdowiak worked primarily on laser support accessories on a government contract. He said that “this entailed working primarily with computer-aided design programs to design these accessories.” In addition, he worked in a lab to test his components to best optimize them and meet the project requirements. Although the opportunity has certainly been an enriching one, his works with General Atomics didn’t require too much from the field of aerospace engineering, instead, requiring more works relating to physics and the like. Although his work was not completely related to his major, he says he was still able to apply basic physics concepts he has learned in introductory classes. “Having experience with a fast-paced engineering curriculum allowed me to quickly learn all the necessary material I needed to succeed in my internship.”
His next internship with Boeing is expected to take place this upcoming summer. He is delighted that his next internship incorporates more work within his major’s field of study. Wdowiak, elaborating on the opportunity, stated that Boeing is an aircraft manufacturing company based in the United States, headquartered in Chicago, IL. The company designs, manufactures, and sells airplanes, rotorcraft, rockets, satellites, and missiles worldwide. He expects to be working as a Process Engineering Intern, which is similar to a systems engineering position. He already had his interview with the team and he expects to be working on integrating with the various teams at Boeing to make sure everything works efficiently and precisely. Because this is likely his final internship before his graduation and a transition to full-time employment in 2020, he says he will also try his best to find his fit in the company and explore other divisions of the company to continue his career path as an engineer.
Lastly, Wdowiak encourages Northside students thinking about college to consider UMich as one of their options. “I'm not sure I have one specific high point at UMich,” said Wdowiak, “but seeing career opportunities open and starting to figure out what I want to do/will do after graduation has been really exciting.”