Mechanical engineering Ph.D. candidate Matthew McIntosh is a member of TANMS, a multi-institutional research center based at UCLA Samueli. His work focuses on multiferroics, or materials that exhibit both magnetic and electric polarizations, for potential use in magnetic memory, antennas, and electrical motors at the nanoscale. We asked how he got interested in engineering and what his experience has been like.
Q: When did you decide you wanted to become an engineer?
Growing up, we lived in Lompoc near Vandenberg Air Force Base. I saw a lot of rocket launches from our rooftop and became interested in how rockets and satellites are engineered. So much so, that I wanted to learn how to build them myself!
Q: Do you have any role models that helped shape your career?
As an adult, I realize the challenges that black women, like my mom, faced while working in STEM fields. My mom worked for the United States Air Force in the late 80s to early 90s, and then she transitioned into the aerospace industry. I know she felt marginalized and unappreciated at times.
I view her as my primary role model since she powered through all of that. Now, she’s a program manager at L3 and previously built her career at Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Lockheed Martin.
Q: Do you have a favorite or inspiring quote?
“Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.” This is my all-time favorite quote and attributed to Dr. Mae Jemison, the first black female astronaut. Her quote is essentially a summation of research and intelligence. How many times in recorded history have technical marvels been achieved when someone in the community said it was “impossible” only years before?
Q: What achievement are you most proud of?
Before enrolling at UCLA to get my Ph.D., I worked as an aerospace engineer at Space Systems Loral where I conducted thermal analysis on various spacecraft. Working closely with my team, and on occasion with NASA, and seeing my recommendations incorporated on a research satellite—and then watching it launch! —is an unforgettable feeling.
Q: What is one thing you would tell your younger self?
Too often as a high schooler and undergrad I was so focused on STEM-related interests that I neglected all other areas. This made me pretty one dimensional which really inhibited my personal growth. Ideally, you should always strive to stimulate your body and mind and pick up an artistic endeavor—I like anything from film to poetry now—along the way.