Making A Difference: One Project At A Time

"It was the opportunity to apply math and science to solve real world problems that made me decide on engineering."

Emma D’Alessandro

Emma D’Alessandro

Job title as of April 2023: Materials & Sustainability Engineer at Boeing


Why did you want to study engineering?

I took a course in high school about the fundamentals of engineering. It was my first exposure to engineering and I loved it. I’ve always had a passion for building things and questioning why things are done certain ways. That curiosity was really aligned with engineering. 

Why did you choose UBC?

I am from Seattle, Washington, so I was familiar with the Pacific Northwest and Vancouver already. When I toured UBC I fell in love with the campus – it’s so beautiful with the water and mountains. UBC engineering is thought of highly around the world and I appreciated UBC's mission to provide sound technical skills, while also instilling a strong sense of respect for communities and the environment within engineering.

UBC Engineering

Why did you choose Materials Engineering?

Materials Engineering interested me because it was very flexible and offered a broad range of opportunities on what you could do afterwards. Any company that makes something – be that Amazon, Boeing or automotive companies – will need materials engineers. There’s a lot of innovation and excitement going on in this field.

Materials Engineering

What were some highlights of your undergraduate experience?

I worked on two capstone projects that allowed me to apply all the coursework I’d done in the earlier years of the program, where the focus is on the fundamentals of materials engineering like thermodynamics, chemistry, mechanics, and statics.

Working on the capstone projects made me feel like I was doing real engineering.

One of the projects was with TC Energy, doing mechanical testing for materials used when welding a pipeline. This was part of a bigger project within the Materials Engineering department. To get involved in this and work alongside professors and postgraduate students felt like we were part of an engineering team more than just undergraduates.

Capstone Projects TC Energy

What was your experience like as an international student?

I participated in the Jump Start program alongside other international students, and it was very helpful with some of those basic challenges you face when moving to a new country, like setting up a bank account or phone plan. UBC offered a lot of support.

One of the cool things about UBC is that it really does feel like its own city. It's wonderful to get out and explore Vancouver and have all the amenities of a large city in terms of entertainment. But if you're not ready for that, you can get everything you need close at hand.

Jump Start Program

Tell us about your career since graduation.

My first job after graduation was with a company called Integrated Technologies where I worked as a project manager for material testing. I worked with aerospace customers from all over the world to test their materials and make sure they passed certain requirements, and I also designed structural tests for things like large airplane parts to see how they respond under load.

After three years, I moved to Boeing where I currently work on developing and implementing sustainable materials and technologies. My two main focuses are on sustainable composite development and the elimination of hazardous materials in the paints and primers we use to inhibit corrosion. On the sustainable composites side, I am leading a project looking into biobased feedstock in resin instead of the fossil-fuel-based feedstock that is currently used.

Integrated Technologies Boeing

What are the highlights of your job?

I like being able to combine the knowledge that I gained in school and from my previous jobs with my personal passion of working towards environmental sustainability.

I get to participate in making change within the company, and also have opportunities to have some influence within the industry. I get to work with amazing people who are incredibly passionate, and knowledgeable about what they do.

What would you like to achieve as an engineer?

I want to do something that makes a difference. I am passionate about sustainability and getting to make a difference within Boeing and the aerospace industry. I want to continue doing that as I grow as an engineer.

I would also like to continue to promote diversity and inclusion. I'm a member of the Society of Women Engineers and the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering. In both organizations I am working to represent myself as a young female engineer and to promote the visibility of women within the industry. Another thing I am doing to give back to the community and support future engineers is mentoring students through the UBC Engineering Mentor Program.

Society of Women EngineersUBC Engineering Mentor Program

Why do you think the mentoring program is helpful?

I wish I had taken advantage of this as a student. It would have been helpful to talk to people who are actually working in industry as I think it would have helped me plan my career path. Luckily, I had some work experiences that helped me identify my interests. But if I hadn’t had those experiences or really talked to people working in the field, I think it probably would have taken a few jobs out of college to figure out what I wanted to do

Any other advice?

I had three engineering-related work experiences while I was a student that helped me identify my career goals. In all three, I was working with engineers and gaining real experience.

UBC has a lot of programs and development to offer, and I would give the advice to take advantage of as much of it as you can.


Find me on: LinkedIn

UBC materials engineering student at a co-op placement at Vector Aerospace

Materials Engineering

What’s it made of and why? If you ask these questions about the products that surround you or dream about creating the building blocks for substances that haven’t yet been invented, you should explore materials engineering.

Materials Engineering

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