Friday, July 22, 2011

Personal Statement- Why I am a reliability engineer

1. What are your reasons for undertaking graduate study at the University of Maryland? Indicate, if appropriate, any specific areas of research interest. You may wish to discuss past work in your intended field and allied fields, your plans for a professional career, or how you developed your interest in or knowledge of your chosen subject.

2. What life experiences you have had that you feel have prepared you to pursue a graduate degree at a large, diverse institution such as the University of Maryland? Among the items you might care to include would be your financial, community and family background, whether you are the first person in your family to pursue a higher education, or any other factors that you feel would contribute to the diversity of our academic community. You may also wish to give the graduate admissions committee some examples of your determination to pursue your goals, your initiative and ability to develop ideas, and /or your capacity for working through problems independently.

I am very excited to be applying to the University of Maryland’s online graduate program for the reliability engineering program. I graduated from Poly NYU in 1997 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Aerospace Engineering. I have worked as a NASA contractor for thirteen years and I have spent the last eleven years working within the Safety and Mission Assurance Office on numerous programs within safety, risk and reliability. I feel that this is the right time to further my education in reliability engineering. I work as a Reliability, Availability, Maintainability and Safety (RAMS) engineer and the University of Maryland’s program is a perfect fit, which will allow me to pursue a graduate degree in my desired field, while working full-time. I am particularly interested in researching Common Clause Failure. I am familiar with the University of Maryland and particularly Dr. Ali Mosleh. I cherish the opportunity to study directly with him and the rest of the faculty of the University of Maryland. Working with a well developed and regarded university will allow me to hone my engineering insight.

Given the increasing complexity in the world and the required high technology to serve society’s needs there is a dire need for advances in reliability engineering. Two noteworthy and high profile failure events, specifically the British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the nuclear meltdown in Japan after the tsunami, prompted the decision to be made in favor of high risk solutions and new safety standards which must be enforced. These were both low-probability events and society is moving toward more complexity and more technology which will offer solutions to high risk events. I have already dedicated most of my adult life to studying, quantifying, mitigating and preventing high risk events. Reliability engineering is a field that can and should be applied to most areas, but is included only as forced by government requirement. As this field grows and its applications multiply I aspire to ensure reliability is considered an integral part of any successful human endeavor.

As Feynman said, “you can’t fool mother nature”. Most of the time, risks are misrepresented or misunderstood. Clarity or transparency is an important feature. Too often reliability analyses are lacking realistic numbers and are therefore ignored (they are either too high or too low). There are too few practitioners with a formal education in reliability. This is a case where a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Very quickly the straight forward reliability calculations diverge from practical consideration.

Reliability and safety are done separately independently of performance and cost because it is seen as a detriment to programs. I believe that the only launch vehicle with 100% reliability is the one that doesn’t launch.

“Failure is not an option, it is a reality.” I hear this term quoted a lot within the industry. I feel people misinterpret its meaning, especially in regards to low probability events. In my experience performance or cost considerations are given more regard than safety or reliability estimations. Two clear examples come to mind, both occurring during the Ares I Upper Stage program within the last few years.

Reliability is cheap, failure is expensive. The main problems are hidden costs and human nature. By nature people will pay a lot more for a cure than for prevention. The old adage might be “an ounce of prevention” is worth a pound of cure, but very few adhere to this. America and the world need passionate and dedicated reliability engineers with the ability to communicate and fight for disclosure of the risk existing all around the world.

A lot of theoretical discussions occur about the positives and negatives of choices within our complex world. We have also become a “sound bite” culture where PowerPoint bullet points simplify the nuances of complex issues. Now is the time for practical solutions to the root causes and no more grand standing or sound bite, bulleted answers that grossly over-simplify complex nuanced situations.

My father was a baker and grew up in Germany after World War II. I have relatives in Germany that are engineers and my father had amazing practical construction skills with no formal training. I have always been geared towards science and engineering. I truly enjoy working within the reliability field and I have spent a lot of my free time learning and studying reliability theories. I truly enjoy math and performing complex analysis.

I was in high school when I knew I wanted to be an engineer. I remember discussing with my father all the problems in the world. My father was a simple, practical man. After detailing what I thought were insurmountable issues, from global warming or running out of oil to nuclear war, my father responded with a simple “the engineers will figure it out”. I remember being very worried at the time. I have thought back many times to the faith my father put in “our engineers” and I have had the pleasure and honor to work with some of the best engineers on some of the most advanced engineering projects in the world. I work at all times to be worthy of the faith that my father and many other people put in engineers. I remember hearing or reading a definition of an engineer as being “someone who uses math and science to solve society’s problem”. This reinforced my longing to be an engineer.

I would like to thank you for considering my application and taking the time to read my personal statement. I truly look forward to beginning my graduate study at the University of Maryland.


Jeff King said...

That is freaking awesome bro... I hope you get it.

Best of luck!!

GTS said...

Totally enjoyed reading this blog dude!

Anonymous said...

"Reliability engineering is a field that can and should be applied to most areas, but is included only as forced by government requirement."

So true. Best of luck homie.

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Reliability may be defined as the capacity of a designed, produced or maintained item to perform as required over time.
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