Jessica Gimbel isn’t someone you can call unmotivated–a part-time nurse, LEAP student, and Zapotec intern, she’s just beginning her mechanical engineering journey.
By Shruti Bhiwandiwala
Nursing didn’t really have a big role to play in Gimbel’s decision to pursue engineering. The driving force was her interest in renewable energy; something she was able to pursue by applying to BU’s Engineering LEAP Program. After working in the field of medicine as a bedside nurse for four years, it was time for a change. “I knew I wanted to get an advanced degree, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted it to be in. While I loved certain aspects of bedside nursing wanted to keep that in my life to a certain extent, I wanted to pursue other interests with this degree. I finally started to think about renewable energy and realized it was probably a good path for me, and here I am!” she explains. “It was the right choice to come here, and working on both the program and nursing at the same time has also been a good balance.”
“It was the right choice to come here, and working on both the program and nursing at the same time has also been a good balance.”
So what’s her time at BUMechE been like thus far? “It’s been eye-opening in many different ways. I’m definitely seeing things from a very different perspective than I’m used to, simply because nursing and MechE differ in terms of education and the type of people you meet, including the genders of the people you work with,” says Gimbel. She’s halfway through her program, and has reached a point where she feels comfortable and confident in her ability to pursue a career as an engineer. The challenge of the fast-track undergraduate work behind her, Gimbel now feels in control of the task ahead. “It is interesting to be entering this field and figuring out how it functions, how the people work, and what they seek. I’m also finally starting to narrow down on what I want to do, so that’s great,” she adds.
Balancing nursing and the LEAP program can be a challenge, but Gimbel has managed to overcome the initial speed bump and has eased into a comfortable routine. She has added an internship at Zapotec Energy – a solar design firm – to the mix, to explore her interest in renewable energy. Her experience with Prof. Michael Gevelber’s energy efficiency research team sparked her interest in the area, which has also led to some volunteer work in the city.
While the internship experience is proving to be extremely valuable, Gimbel is in no rush to get through school without adequate field experience. “I have seen what it’s like when someone gets through school too quickly and tries to find a job without much experience, so I’m just taking my time and trying to get as many internships as I can,” she explains. Gimbel encourages students to look into the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) internship program, which is how she landed her gig at Zapotec. MassCEC is a state economic development agency dedicated to accelerating the growth of the clean energy sector across Massachusetts. They serve as liaisons between students and clean energy companies, and encourage interactions by funding these internships. Gimbel adds, “There are so many companies that are so focused on this cause; MassCEC is a resource that people don’t really know about, and they should.”
“I have seen what it’s like when someone gets through school too quickly and tries to find a job without much experience, so I’m just taking my time and trying to get as many internships as I can.”
Gimbel is eager for more people to participate in the LEAP program and reap its benefits. For her, it has been an intensely useful resource––one that a surprising number of people aren’t quite familiar with. “When I was looking into a degree in engineering, there were very few uppercrust universities that had something like this,” she says. “Most of them required former training in engineering, or something in the STEM field. It’s a rare opportunity and it’s quality education, so I think it’s just interesting that it isn’t as popular yet.”
“It’s a rare opportunity and it’s quality education, so I think it’s just interesting that it isn’t as popular yet.”
She encourages prospective students to apply to the program and wait for the outcome, just as she did not too long ago. Her advice? Be fearless. “Getting into the program means you have to jump right in and be okay with it. The reason why I have been able to get involved in as many things as I have is because I’m willing to go to events and take chances,” says Gimbel. While the coursework may be extremely rigorous, given that the program runs at an accelerated pace, she urges applicants to dive in and figure it out. “It may have been a while since you’ve been in college, but if you are resourceful, dedicated, and know what you want, then it will work out just fine,” she adds.