By Laura Tenpenny.
A hearing impairment inspired a special calling on the life of Brittnee Mound-Watson (PhD/MSE ’19).
“After receiving inner ear hearing aids as a kid, I wanted to be a scientist,” said Mound-Watson. “I liked thinking about wearing a white lab coat, goggles, and gloves to invent things that help people.”
She researched her device and found that certain materials made it suitable for the human body. Out of this discovery was birthed her career in materials science, which she first pursued at the University of Florida.
Drawn to UT by a Chancellor’s Fellowship, she found support and unique opportunities that prepared her to don the lab coat of her childhood dreams.
“After meeting Dr. George Pharr, I chose to study materials on a smaller scale,” said Mound-Watson. “My graduate studies regularly employed nanoindentation, by which you probe the surface of a material to test its mechanical properties. Dr. Pharr is a leader in this field and helped me develop research skills I now use daily.”
Enabled by her studies with Pharr, Mound-Watson participated in the 2017 Nanomechanical Testing in Materials Research and Development conference in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
“After the presentation and answering questions, I felt more confident in my ability to discuss scientific results and present to leaders in the field,” said Mound-Watson. “It inspired me to look for professional roles in research.”
Mound-Watson is now a Senior Manufacturing Engineer with the thin film team in the Optical Components Center (OCC) at Lockheed Martin, where she specializes in the development of optical coatings.
“My knowledge of small-scale mechanical properties of ceramics specifically has been useful, as well as a course I took on thin-film processing,” said Mound-Watson. “The MSE curriculum provided fundamental knowledge and skills to support why I’m a good fit for engineering with the OCC.”
Her education and experiences at UT enabled Mound-Watson to secure a research role with a company she had at the top of her list of employers.
“I felt the professors in MSE always wanted to see students develop in every aspect,” said Mound-Watson. “Being a Volunteer to me is simple: helping others realize their potential.”
Through her work, she is helping men and women in uniform do the same. With a dad in the Navy and a step-dad in similar Department of Defense contract work, Mound-Watson was inspired to support the military through her career.
“My long-term goal is to lead and manage a team of engineers through projects that will make a significant impact on the men and women who fight for our country,” said Mound-Watson.
Thanks to science, Mound-Watson was able to hear her calling. Thanks to her education and experiences at UT, she gets to wear the longed-for lab coat and use science to help others like her younger self had hoped.