Ellen Meyer ’23 makes the most of the cards in her hand

July 20, 2022

Ellen Meyer at Sandia National Laboratory

This summer Ellen Meyer is doing an internship with the Assured Survivability and Agility with Pulsed Power (ASAP) program at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, NM.

When Ellen Meyer ’23 takes a break from classes and teaching assignments at the University of Rochester, she likes to socialize with fellow students at a card table.

Ellen Meyer's portraitMeyer, a mechanical engineering major and vice president of the 200-member student Cards Club, especially enjoys playing pitch. It requires her to concentrate on how to make the most of the cards in her hand, she says.

Meyer has taken a similar approach to making the most of the wide range of learning experiences available to her since enrolling at the University.

An outstanding student, she is co-recipient of this year’s Emil L. Kuichling Prize, awarded by the Department of Mechanical Engineering to a junior who has shown the highest academic performance in the core courses of the major.

Meyer was also recently chosen for the University’s unique Take Five Scholars Program, which provides select students an additional semester or year, tuition-free, to pursue a special academic interest that falls outside their major. She will explore the connections between literature and history, looking at literature through a historic lens, and vice versa.

Meyer has learned design and manufacturing skills as a member of the UR Robotics club, most recently participating in NASA’s Lunabotics competition.

She has spent two summers interning at an Ensign-Bickford Aerospace and Defense Company plant in her hometown of Simsbury, CT. Meyer learned firsthand about “the complications and challenges that are involved in designing things so that they are able to be manufactured.”

And this summer, she is doing an internship at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, NM. Meyer is working with the Assured Survivability and Agility with Pulsed Power (ASAP) program. ASAP explores technologies that use brief but powerful bursts of electrical energy to simulate nuclear explosions — without resorting to actual nuclear tests — to better understand their impact on electronics and materials.

“I’m really excited about it,” she says.

Rochester offers ‘a good balance for me’

“As a child I never thought about growing up and wanting to be an engineer,” Meyer writes at her LinkedIn profile.

Instead, she loved playing outside with her siblings, reading, sewing and “really got into baking—and still am,” Meyer says. “I like the chemistry and experimentation of it, following recipes and trying my own things.”

Her father, a mechanical engineer with Protedyne, a LabCorp subsidiary, and her mother, a program manager at Pratt and Whitney, “didn’t try to push me into any one career path,” Meyer says. “However, from a young age they always supported my education and learning in general.”

She had so many good teachers in high school, that it’s hard for her to single out any one of them as a mentor. “I’d take a class and think, ‘oh my god, I love biology; this is so cool, this is what I want to do.’”

Eventually, though, she set her sights on engineering. “I liked math and science and I wanted to do something in that area, but I also like the creative problem solving that engineering could offer me,” Meyer says.

She chose the University of Rochester because it offered “a good balance for me,” Meyer says. “A strong engineering program, but also a lot of other learning going on – a good balance of all disciplines, and a good balance of preparing people for industry in addition to graduate school.”

The University’s open curriculum, for example, gave her the flexibility to take several classes in English and history, which are helping to lay the foundation for her eventual Take Five program. She is also contemplating completing enough courses to major in mathematics as well.

“I love the mechanical engineering department,” she adds. Meyer especially enjoys serving as a teaching assistant for Engineering of Bridges, one of the first classes aspiring mechanical engineering students take. “I get a chance to meet all the freshmen, talk to them during office hours, and it’s kind of nice to be one of the first people who brings the mechanical engineering department to them.”

In short, “I’ve really enjoyed being at Rochester so far,” Meyer says. “It’s a great school, and I have a really good time here.”

Even during Rochester’s winters when she enjoys downhill and cross-country skiing.

‘Grateful the world is so endlessly interesting’

Though her design and manufacturing experiences at Ensign-Bickford and with the Robotics Club were valuable, Meyer says, she is now leaning more towards going to graduate school to pursue research.

“That’s why I am interested in the opportunity to work at Sandia,” she says.

She’s not yet sure whether a research track will lead her into industry or academia.  “I am definitely thinking about both,” Meyer says.

In the meantime, one thing remains constant: Her love for learning.

“Whether I am experimenting with the chemistry of baking, studying heat exchangers, discussing a mathematical theorem, or practicing a new sewing technique, I welcome each new piece of knowledge eagerly, and I am grateful that the world is so endlessly interesting.”