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Women @ Energy: Mayling Wong-Squires

March 13, 2013 - 4:45pm

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Mayling Wong-Squires is a Mechanical Engineer at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

Mayling Wong-Squires is a Mechanical Engineer at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

Mayling Wong-Squires is a Mechanical Engineer at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.  She is currently working in the SRF Development Department of the Technical Division, working closely with scientists in the research and development of optimizing the performance of superconducting radio frequency cavities for future particle accelerators such as Project X.  Mayling is the responsible engineer overseeing the infrastructure that bakes the cavities at various temperatures as part of cavity processing.  She is also helping in the engineering of the new Vertical Test Stands that test the cavities at cryogenic temperatures.  Past projects where she has worked include BTeV, NuMI, and CDF. 

1) What inspired you to work in STEM?

I always enjoyed math and science through high school.  When I was in college, for two summers, I worked for a pediatric neurologist in her laboratory where she studied the brains of rats.  I realized that, while I was not as interested in the medical research, I was interested in equipment that ran the experiments.  I returned to college at the end of the second summer to switch into engineering. 

2) What excites you about your work at the Energy Department?

It is a privilege to work in a place where no day is alike and everyone is working towards a common cause:  understanding the basic structure of matter.  Through the years I have worked on projects of a wide variety of subjects:  baking materials at elevated temperatures up to 1000 degrees C (1832 degrees F), designing systems to delivery fluids at cryogenic temperatures down to 2 degrees K (-456 degrees F), researching the outgassing of materials, designing a system to move and install 12-ton magnet inside a tunnel.  As interesting as the work is, the people make the Fermilab a special place to work.  I am lucky to work with scientists, engineers, technicians, designers, and support staff from all walks of life, from all over the country and all over the world.     

3) How can our country engage more women, girls, and other underrepresented groups in STEM?

More resources should be directed to creating wide-ranging opportunities for everyone to apply their enthusiasm for STEM projects and jobs.  Do all middle schoolers have the chance to participate in a science fair project?  Where can a high schooler go to participate in a robotics contest?  How can a college student obtain an internship in industry to gain experience in computer engineering?  Where can a PhD graduate in physics continue in her research?  While opportunities exist, they are not accessible equally to underrepresented groups, especially those who live in areas where science and technology are not a priority.  Efforts need to be undertaken by industry, schools and universities, and government institutes alike.   

4) Do you have tips you'd recommend for someone looking to enter your field of work?

One must enjoy math and science, as it is an essential tool to use in engineering.  Also, communication is key for any engineer (counter to stereotypes!).  Whether it speaking face-to-face, writing an engineering note, or creating a drawing, one must be able to communicate ideas and solutions in a clear fashion to start, build, test, and implement a project.  Finally, it helps to keep an open mind as to where one's career will take you.  When an opportunity arises, be open to considering them even if it is not in one's original plans.  You never know what happens unless you try it!

5) When you have free time, what are your hobbies?

As a second-generation Chinese-American, I have been blessed with educational and career opportunities to bring me to where I am right now.  I am currently working through my church to start a partnership with a refugee ministry.  I hope to show through a helping hand and by example how newly arrived families can acclimate, and then thrive, in this great country.

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