Pioneer Spotlight: Dr. Jessica P. M. Fick
Dr. Jessica P. M. Fick, associate professor of mechanical engineering, joined the University of Wisconsin-Platteville in 2011. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from UW-Platteville, she earned her master’s and doctorate degrees from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, specializing in computational solid mechanics. Now Fick's research interests focus on failure mechanisms and their connection to the difference scales to analyze why materials behave in certain ways.
When did your interest in mechanical engineering begin?
I think everything stemmed from really liking math in middle and high school. I like how logical it is. I actually went to UW-Platteville on a math scholarship and started my first year taking Differential Equations. I had a math teacher in high school who mentioned in passing that I should be an engineer, and that suggestion just stuck.
Prior to your graduate work, you worked for the Army Research Laboratory in Adelphi, Maryland. How did this experience help you grow in your profession?
Straight out of undergrad, I moved to Maryland and started working at ARL. It was an amazing experience. In fact, when I left to go to grad school, part of me thought I would go back after I graduated. I was working with blast and shock situations and trying to design against failures in extreme environments. Unfortunately, I needed expertise in areas that aren’t covered in an undergraduate mechanical engineering degree, and I found myself in my office trying to teach myself about blast and shock from textbooks. I decided it would be easier and more efficient to go back to school. I already had a passion for failure and fracture before working at ARL, but also fell in love with high rate loading such as blast or impact events while there.
What kind of research or projects have you recently completed that you’re especially passionate about?
I am passionate about high rate loading and failure of materials. I like to connect to the fine scale and look at the mechanism that causes failure in the material to explain why we see a material behave the way it does.
What do you consider the most rewarding part of your job?
Hands down, the most rewarding part of my job is interacting with students. It is rewarding to see how much my advisees change from their first year to when they are about to graduate. In class, it is fun to see everyone start to understand a new concept (even if they don’t know it, we can see it in their eyes when we turn around in lecture). I love learning new things from my students. We all have unique experiences and backgrounds and it is great to be able to learn from that knowledge.
What advice would you give to a student who is contemplating majoring in mechanical engineering?
Mechanical engineering is one of the broadest engineering majors. We cover specialties in materials, manufacturing, thermos-fluids, robotics, automation and more. There is a lot of versatility to being a mechanical engineering major.
Interview conducted by Amanda Bertolozzi, Writer/Editor, Communications. To nominate someone for the Pioneer Spotlight, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.