Caitlin Walde ’15 (Materials Science and Engineering) is a current PhD student; she never expected to end up in manufacturing. But an affinity for mechanical engineering courses led to her current focus on cold spray technologies, a process in which a high-velocity spray application of solid-state particles embeds them within a surface for an exceptionally strong bond.

What initially sparked your interest in manufacturing?

I really liked how broad the industry is. You can work on developing and building a new process, optimizing parameters in an existing process, optimizing the input materials for a given process, or even building auxiliary robots. There’s a lot to choose from, which makes for an anything-but-boring career.

 What do people not know about manufacturing that you wish they did?

I wish more people knew about the breadth of the manufacturing industry. I think that the typical conception is that manufacturing deals with just the process and optimizing a production line, but, in reality, there are so many aspects to it. Optimizing a process and a production line are definitely key components, but other aspects include optimizing the input material, building a whole new process, developing and integrating robotics into the process, as well as managing material flow and the finances of a process.

 What’s the most interesting/surprising thing you've learned about manufacturing while at WPI?

I came in with the preconception that manufacturing only deals with a process and a production line, but was surprised to find that materials, financing, and management all also play a big role.

 How do you hope your contributions to manufacturing will impact the world?

I work on a Department of Defense grant that aims to decrease time lost by, as well as cost of, repairs to helicopters, fighter jets, ships, and other vehicles. By enabling our armed forces to more quickly and efficiently do their jobs, I hope to make the world a safer place.

The future of manufacturing is bright.