Briana Tomboulian

Northampton, MA, US
Field of Work 
Aeronautics and Propulsion
Job Title or "Student" 
NASA Fellow, Graduate Student
Smith College & University of Massachusetts Amherst
Engineering Science (Undergraduate), Mechanical Engineering (Graduate)
Education Level 
Profile Biography 
Growing up, my original plan was to be a doctor, but in high school my favorite subjects were physics and calculus, NOT biology. I loved being able to derive equations and use fundamental laws of physics and I did not like the amount of memorization required in my biology courses. Based on my interests, my high school teachers encouraged me to look into a career in engineering instead. I read about Smith College's engineering program for women, and I knew that was the place for me! Smith appealed to me because I wanted small class-sizes (so that I could get really involved in my education), and I was sure that I would be supported as a women engineer. I loved Smith: great education, athletics and friends. After graduating with honors, I was sure I wanted to go to grad school but I wasn't sure yet what I wanted to study. I took a job at a civil/environmental engineering firm and worked as an engineering consultant for two years. It was a good experience. I learned a lot about having a 'real' job and being independent. It also gave me time to think about what I wanted to study in grad school. I met a professor from UMass Amherst and was interested in his research in materials science and mechanical engineering and liked how supportive he was of his grad students. So I decided to go to UMass. In my first year, I was awarded a NASA fellowship that has funded my graduate studies and given me access to NASA research facilities. My research is on developing a heat radiator for a new high-power spacecraft that can travel to Mars in a few weeks instead of many months. This work is exciting and I'm learning so many new things everyday. I'm currently in my third year of my Ph.D. and hope to graduate in 2014.

I'm also very involved in athletics and campus social life. Work-life balance is very important to me.

One of the biggest lessons I learned at Smith was how to take charge of my education--ask questions in class, go talk to your professors during office hours, use all the resources your school offers including career services (i.e., resume and interview prep), ask around for research opportunities, and just be assertive! :)
Pets, Dance, Computing, Travel, Sports
Race & Ethnicity 
Level of Participation 
After-school visit, Field trip participation, In-school visit, Job shadow, Online role model, Summer camp visit
My Experience 
I am a new Role Model.
No Preference
Program Affiliation 
Society of Women Engineers (SWE), Other

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