Keeping things on schedule

Jessica Gray

Jessica Gray / Marc Studer photo

By Douglas Esser
As Jessica Gray was elected president of an engineering club at the University of Washington Bothell, “everyone kind of chuckled,” she said. “I think they all expected me to take that role. I raised my hand for that job.”

When people wonder what they’re going to do next, Gray is often the one with the plan. Fellow members of the club — a chapter of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) — went on a study abroad trip to Japan with her. And after a day of learning how power is produced and distributed in Japan, Gray was the one who would schedule a restaurant, karaoke or a tour for the group.

Students who have been around Gray expect her to take the lead.

Finding opportunities

A transfer from Shoreline Community College two years ago, Gray chose UW Bothell for the opportunity to have more contact with professors. Now graduating with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, Gray said she found that in the School of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics.

It was Steven Collins, associate professor in the Division of Engineering & Mathematics, who recommended she attend a heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) industry conference in Seattle. She enjoyed meeting other people who are enthusiastic about what they do, and she joined ASHRAE and the chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

Gray is enthusiastic about mechanical engineering “because we’re problem solvers,” she said. “I want to provide beautifully functional solutions to real life problems.”

Recently, along with ASME chair Collin Tasaka, Gray used her organizing skills to help arrange the Puget Sound Engineering Council (PSEC) mentorship night. More than 100 students met in the Activities & Recreation Center with engineers from Boeing, Lockheed Martin and other companies in the area.

“This event would not have been the same without her professionalism, drive and leadership,” said Cameron Whalen, a member of the PSEC and UW Bothell alumnus (Mechanical Engineering ’17).

Putting skills to work

Gray’s capstone group is working with Assistant Professor Shima Abadi on a research project. It’s a solar-powered buoy to measure noise in Lake Washington from the Highway 520 floating bridge. As part of this work, Gray has used the laser cutter and 3D printers in the Makerspace to fabricate needed parts. She’s also the one who keeps things on schedule.

Last summer, Gray had an internship through the a.i. solutions aerospace company at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Gray brainstormed with her mentor, a NASA specialist trying to improve ways to prevent vibrations within spacecraft from resonating to destructive levels. She also co-authored a research paper on the work.

It was exciting to be at NASA at a time Boeing and SpaceX are competing to put people in orbit with U.S. rockets again, Gray said. She sat in the control room on three launches, including the Parker Solar Probe that is now on its way to the outer reaches of the sun.

The experience was particularly special because she carpooled with her father, who works for Boeing at NASA, and they used the time to talk engineering together. She also saw Boeing’s CST-100 spacecraft and “everyone there was happy to answer questions. It was just a really great place to be learning.”

Big day in every way

On June 16, family members will celebrate commencement with Gray along with her birthday, which falls on the same day.

As she wraps up her capstone project and finishes her term as ASHRAE president, Gray is looking for a job and taking time to make sure it’s the right fit. 

Her last directions to younger students at UW Bothell are: “Get to know the professors, and you’ll get a completely different experience than you would at a larger college.”

Also: “Get involved in club activities that involve networking. Connect with people in your field who are passionate about what they do.”





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