From hybrid cars to electric aircraft, transportation is getting cleaner and greener. Electric pickup trucks are poised to be the next gamechanger. Stephanie Jennings, a 2018 alumna employed by Ford Motor Company, is working on this transformation.
In an early career rotational program at Ford, Jennings is a project manager for the battery electric F-150 pickup truck which will be on the market in 2022. Prior to her current role, she worked with powertrain plastics suppliers to ensure the quality of Ford’s products.
Her first experience at Ford was an internship the summer after her first year in the master’s program at Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.
What led this Carrollton, Texas native to Pittsburgh?
While exploring potential master’s programs, she was drawn to the interdisciplinary nature of the courses and research available at Carnegie Mellon. She had completed her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering at Rice University and worked professionally for a few years before applying to graduate school.
As she pursued MechE’s master’s program, Jennings learned how to tackle real world problems through hands-on projects in the research lab and classroom.
A lot of manufacturing quality involves applying statistical methods to look for defects, analyze outliers, and predict process reliability and capability.Stephanie Jennings, Project Manager, Ford
“A lot of manufacturing quality involves applying statistical methods to look for defects, analyze outliers, and predict process reliability and capability. For example, checking to see if a certain process is normal to determine capability,” she said. "I found the stats I utilized in my research with Katie Whitefoot and Jeremy Michalek to be very helpful."
Michalek and Whitefoot, who each hold joint faculty appointments in Mechanical Engineering and Engineering and Public Policy, had developed and taught a course titled Quantitative Entrepreneurship. A team project experience for the course stands out in Jennings' mind.
“We worked with a startup trying to assess commercial viability of a technology," Jennings recalled. It was an interesting project since we learned how to work with a sponsor and directly applied methods we had learned in class to the sponsor's project.”
Another course that she found very applicable was Materials Selection for Mechanical Engineers taught by Professor Maarten de Boer. It prepared her well for dealing with thermoplastics at Ford.
At Carnegie Mellon, Jennings also took advantage of the opportunities outside of the classroom by joining the All University Orchestra. “It was an invaluable source of stress relief and got me back into playing the cello,” she said.
To new students, Jennings recommends that they get to know their classmates outside of coursework and that they reach out to the faculty. “Don't be afraid of the professors—they're all approachable,” she said.
Jennings continues to build on her experiences. Currently, she’s enrolled in a part-time MBA program at the University of Michigan through Ford’s sponsorship. “I found that the M.S. MechE program prepared me for that very well."