Melody Wu

Sunnyvale, CA, US
Field of Work 
Robotics
 
Medical Robotics
Company 
Intuitive Surgical
Job Title or "Student" 
Systems Analyst (Controls and Algorithms Engineer)
Education 
Stanford
Degree 
Mechanical Engineering
Education Level 
Masters
Profile Biography 
When I was little, I would borrow my brother's Legos any chance I got to build houses or other crazy structures, and help my dad fix toilets whenever that came up. I realize now that I love trying to figure out why/how things work the way that they do, and solving problems, so that's why I'm an engineer!

My advice would be to go after your dreams, whatever they may be, and that it's totally ok to change course and take a different road once you realize you've found a new passion. You have to keep trying new things to learn and grow! There will also be many mentors and guides along the way :)

In high school I loved math, but I decided to branch out and explore a bit by joining almost every math/science club available (math club, science club, ecology club, robotics club, etc). High school was also the time when the internet was getting popular. I used it to find the Stanford Math Camp, so I applied, got a scholarship, and went for a month (and fell in love with Stanford and Jamba Juice in that month). It was really awesome to meet so many other girls (they actively try to maintain a 50/50 ratio of girls to boys), and also to be introduced to topics not typically covered until Junior/Senior years of undergrad. This was also the time when I realized I didn't want to major in math when I went to college. I was pretty good at computation, because that's what they teach up through high school, but proofs were hard! And I usually could not finish all my homework (most of them proofs) every night at camp! :(

Luckily I discovered a new passion from my explorations in after school activities.... robots! We had a FIRST robotics team at my high school, and robotics was basically my life for most of January and February every year, because we only had 6 weeks to build a fully working robot. I learned how to drill, saw, tighten bolts, solder, pick out wheels and gears for our robot, and drive the robot! It was super fun to go compete at regional competitions and watch our robots climb up obstacles and shoot colorful balls into goals.

I went to Stanford for undergrad, thinking that I wanted to be a computer science major. I spent many long nights coding by myself in my dorm room, and decided maybe it wasn't for me. I switched to mechanical engineering instead, and found that it was a much better fit because there was not only a lot of math and equations and physics, but immediate tangible applications as well. There were many group projects where you worked with other students to design and build things after learning fundamental concepts.

I still loved robots, because it has a little bit of everything (programming, wires, mechanisms), so I spent a summer working on a time-lapse panorama picture taking robot at NASA, and also asked one of my professors to do research in his robotics/haptics lab. He told me to try working in industry, so I stumbled into an internship at a medical company working on heart surgery devices. I decided I wanted to be in the medical device field, because it is important for me to be able to apply the engineering I've learned toward saving people's lives. Since then, I've worked as an R&D/mechanical design engineer in companies specializing in neurovascular (think devices that go through your blood vessels up into your brain) and heart valve replacement/repair therapies. I am very happy to be working at Intuitive Surgical (maker of the da Vinci minimally invasive robot) now, which combines two of my passions: robots and medical devices. At Intuitive, I've spent 2+ years as a mechanical engineer (designing parts and mechanisms, picking materials, testing, etc), and recently switched over to systems analysis, which is controls and algorithms engineering (yay programming!) and making things the mechanical engineers design move and behave the way we want them to.

Outside of work, I like to cook and bake yummy things (and eat them too), ride my bike (short rides to work every day, and long rides on the weekends), and go rock climbing!
Interests 
Computing, Reading, Travel, Sports
Race & Ethnicity 
Asian
Level of Participation 
After-school visit, In-school visit, Job shadow, Online role model
My Experience 
I have been a Role Model 1-2 times.
Availability 
Evenings, Weekends
Resources 
Career exploration activities, Identifying other role models
Program Affiliation 
None

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