Find Your Passion: The Total Package
By Allison Bridges and Mary Wymer
As a little girl growing up in Florence, S.C., Martha Addison knew she wanted to be an aerospace engineer.
When the time came to choose a college, Addison wanted a school that offered her everything she deserved. “I am not just about engineering, and I wanted a school that had more to it than just engineering,” says Addison. “I wanted the whole package.”
The University of Alabama offered Addison, now a junior aerospace engineering and mechanics major, just what she wanted. Since making the move from the East Coast to Tuscaloosa, she has grown to develop the skills and abilities that UA strives to instill in its students.
Addison is involved in several campus organizations, including the Wesley Foundation and the Honors Program’s intramural flag football team. However, her involvement with the College of Engineering’s organizations has proved to be the most beneficial, both personally and professionally, she says.
As an ambassador for UA’s College of Engineering, Addison now recruits students just like her who are about to make the transition from high school to college. She knows how important an inside perspective can be when making the final decision on where to receive a top-notch education, but she is most eager to share with potential students the benefits of UA’s “whole package.”
“When I was being recruited at UA, what I was most interested in was what the University could offer me,” says Addison. “I wanted to know what life was like outside of the classroom. Now I am in the position to recruit new students, and I am thankful for the opportunity to promote a school with such a rich tradition of excellence that is evident in its students, faculty, staff, academic programs and research initiatives. Every aspect of my experience has been exceptional.”
Addison also serves as president of UA’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, a non-profit educational and service organization that establishes engineering as a highly desirable career aspiration for women. As a recipient of the SWE Future Leader Award, Addison attends the organization’s leadership training seminars.
“I did not have a strong female engineer to look to when I was growing up,” says Addison, “which is why SWE’s mission to motivate future female engineers is crucial to the engineering field. Women who are motivated by SWE can become successful engineers, thus increasing the expertise and innovations that are crucial to the field.”
The University of Alabama’s Crimson GRITS, or Girls Racing in the South, is also a contributor to Addison’s UA experience. She’s led the team that designs and builds an off-road vehicle for the Society of Automotive Engineers’annual mini-baja competition. The vehicle must meet several demanding requirements, providing the student members with a challenging project that involves the planning and manufacturing tasks encountered when introducing a new product to the consumer industrial market.
Addison’s involvement with GRITS has allowed her to learn the components of designing, building and testing. “This is an excellent opportunity to learn about real-world problems and solutions, and to simply have fun,” says Addison. “It is incredibly rewarding to learn about how the design process works by using a vehicle you have actually built.”
Considering Addison’s extensive campus involvement and leadership activities, one might think she would not have much time for anything else. Think again.
In addition to being the recipient of several scholarships and awards, including the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Junior and Senior Scholarships and the Alabama Space Grant Scholarship, Addison has completed several co-op and internship programs that challenged and strengthened her engineering skills.
As a design intern with SPIRIT Aerosystems in Wichita, Kan., Addison was responsible for designing parts of an aircraft’s wing. She later worked with integrating the whole wing, and she single handedly developed a database detailing the placement of fasteners on an airplane’s wing. Addison’s work utilized the company’s time and money, and it led to an increase in savings for the consumer.
“My work was original because it integrated the use of fasteners into the design phase of an airplane’s wing,” says Addison. “This was something that had never been done before. Without a firm foundation in aerospace engineering, it may have not been possible. UA provided me with the skills I needed to set a new timeline for when fastener placement is considered.”
As a co-op engineer with Southern Research Institute in Birmingham, Addison spent three semesters gaining engineering expertise outside the classroom. Not only did she manage input and output of mechanic specimens, but Addison created specimen design plans based on companies’ test needs. Needless to say, the experience Addison gained was invaluable, and it has expanded her UA experience. “My co-op experience opened my eyes to a new engineering field,” says Addison.
Addison has also conducted research alongside UA faculty. With Dr. Stanley E. Jones, James R. Cudworth Professor of Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics, she worked to solve a new class of mathematical-based equations dealing with the motion of springs. Her work with Dr. Philip Bradford, assistant professor of computer science, has also been instrumental in developing coding to simulate the stability of aircraft. “The research I have been involved in has provided me with intellectual and personal growth, and I am constantly being challenged by new material,” says Addison.
Addison was drawn to The University of Alabama because she wanted more than just an exceptional education – she wanted an exceptional experience. This UA experience has allowed her to further develop and commit herself to her dedication to campus leadership, professional growth and willingness to learn.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
This story is part of the Find Your Passion series. To learn more about how you can find your passion at The University of Alabama, please visit UA Undergraduate Admissions.