Maria-Isabel Carnasciali remembers having a springtime conversation with a student about his summer plans. The sophomore engineering major explained that he was nervous about applying for an internship because he was afraid he didn’t know enough.
Carnasciali, an assistant professor of systems and multidisciplinary engineering who joined the UNH community 2010, seized this moment as a teaching opportunity.
“You have to be willing to seek out opportunities and be confident that while you might not know something, you have the skills and the background to learn it,” Carnasciali remembered telling the student. “Industry experience, experiential education, and research equip you with the skills to teach yourself.”
Carnasciali learned this as an undergraduate conducting research shoulder to shoulder with graduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and at Georgia Tech, where she earned her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering.
These hands-on experiences provide students a dress rehearsal for what they will encounter as they begin their careers, she says. “A presentation in front of your classmates is not the same as sharing your ideas with professionals who know more than you,” explains Carnasciali.
Jane Schwab ’12, a mechanical engineering major, aspires to earn her Ph.D. and become a professor. As part of a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) she worked with Carnasciali to develop computer models to study objects as they reenter the atmosphere from space.
“It is critical to get hands-on experience,” concludes Carnasciali. “Some students will go on to graduate school, and others will look to start their careers. If you don’t have experience, it is difficult to get in the door or differentiate yourself.”