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Engineers in the Wild – Jennifer Branton, PhD, of Boeing

Jennifer Branton, PhD, a Materials, Process, and Physics Chemical Engineer, helps get your airplane off the ground. Well, she helps get a lot of planes off the ground – and she makes sure that when a Boeing aircraft takes flight, it does so in the most environmentally responsible way possible. Ever wonder how that works?

What’s your job?
Materials, Process, & Physics Chemical Engineer

What team do you work on?
I am the Technical Lead Engineer for the Environmental Team in Chemical Technology, Boeing Research & Technology

In your own words, what do you do?
I manage a portfolio of projects that focus on the environment. There are a lot of chemicals involved in keeping passengers safe on airplanes, like chemicals in fire extinguishers and even in the special paint we use to protect the parts from corrosion. Boeing is working to make sure that the chemicals we use in airplane production are the best possible for our planet. One of the things I work on is how to replace some of the chemicals we use with alternatives that are better for the environment.

Why do you love working at Boeing?
I truly enjoy the people I work with and working for a company that values its employees. By working with environmental projects, I feel like I am helping improve the world in which we live while making amazing products better for the environment.

What toys did you like most as a child?
I loved solving logic puzzles and completing 3-D brain teasers. I enjoyed video games – my favorite was Zelda (the original!)

What did you want to be when you were little?
I wanted to be a doctor.

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If you were telling a classroom of elementary school students about a really creative and challenging project that you did, what would you say?
I love working with projects that help our planet. At Boeing, it is important that we protect the airplane from the things like fire, corrosion and even bugs getting on the wings and make sure that the materials we use to build the airplane aren’t harming the planet. Projects that focus on the environment require us to find new paints, coatings, sealants, and other materials for the airplane and new ways to apply these materials.

For example, if you are making a model airplane, you typically use glue to hold it together. Imagine that you learned that the glue isn’t good for the planet, and so you wanted to use something different. What do you do to hold your model airplane together? You have to use your problem-solving skills to find a new way to hold the model airplane together, or you have to make a new glue that is not harmful. This type of work is always challenging and requires a lot of creativity to find new solutions.

How did you discover engineering?
My father is an engineer and he recognized that my strengths and skills would make me a good engineer. He encouraged me to study engineering in college as my foundation for medical school (my original plan) instead of solely pre-med. This was one of the best decisions I ever made. I loved the challenge of engineering and by the time I graduated, I realized that medical school was not the right path for me. I went to graduate school instead.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
My biggest challenge in my career has been finding the right balance for family and career. I have 4 children and want to be there for them while fully applying myself at work. Finding the right company like Boeing has made it possible for me to have a good balance and be my best at work and at home.

Engineers in the Wild is a series of interviews with real-life engineers. Click here to read more!

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