James Madison University

Michelle Beatty

Engineering Major ‘12

Michelle BeattyWhy did you choose JMU for Engineering?
First, I loved JMU as a school because of its atmosphere and beautiful campus, so when I found out they had engineering I knew I wanted to come here. Then I found out about the program and loved how they didn’t make me decide what discipline of engineering I wanted to study because the type I want isn’t under the traditional categories.

What type of engineering are you interested in?
Human factors/industrial engineering/ergonomics; basically, I want to design more human-friendly things. For example, old computer screens were very shinny and gave people headaches. So, engineers designed them to have less glare. If you look around your life, you’ll notice things and ask yourself “Why would someone put that switch/button/light/etc. there…?” and I want to fix that.

Outside of engineer, what do you like to do?
I play tenor sax in the MRD’s (Marching Royal Dukes) and I’m in Tau Beta Sigma, which is a national music service sorority. I also played intramural indoor soccer my first semester. Having something completely unrelated to engineering really helps balance my schedule and allows me to make a lot of different friends.

What was your favorite thing you’ve done in the program so far?
Building my design project was probably my favorite thing so far. I wanted to build a soap dispenser that allowed the user to extract as much soap as possible. Although I had to use duct tape to secure everything, and it didn’t actually function, seeing my drawings come together in a 3-D product was really exciting because it was all up to me to get from my ideas to a finished product.

Have you done any exciting summer projects?
The summer after my freshman year I worked with Dr. Pierrakos on two projects: fluid dynamics and engineering education. The fluids project involved putting together a flow loop so we could see the vortex ring formations that mechanical heart valves produce. For my second project, I looked at data collected from students who dropped the JMU engineering major in the 2008 class to see why they did and what could be done to stop future students from dropping.

What’s one piece of advice you have for incoming freshman to this program?
Get involved with different groups and meet a lot of new people. Don’t be afraid to attend events if nobody you know is going, just do it.