Q+A with 3M Impact Transfer Scholar, Hannah Birch
July 24, 2023

Supporting future STEM leaders 

The transfer student pipeline from community and technical colleges is one of the University of Minnesota’s best sources for recruiting students of color and women to STEM majors on campus. 3M’s investment in these students through the 3M Impact Transfer Scholarship helps ensure that the University’s College of Science and Engineering on the Twin Cities campus and Swenson College of Science and Engineering on the Duluth campus can continue to support future scientists and engineers across all backgrounds. 

Spotlight on 3M Impact Transfer Scholar, Hannah Birch 

Rising junior Hannah Birch is a transfer student exploring her passion for math and science through mechanical engineering. We caught up with Hannah after her first year at the University of Minnesota Duluth to learn more about how she’s taking advantage of the career development opportunities the University offers, and about her summer internship at an engineering consulting firm. 

What prompted your interest in mechanical engineering? 

In high school, I began to develop a relationship with mathematics and science and knew I wanted to do something involving these studies. I’ve also always been interested in a career where I could reduce the impact people have on the earth, which is why I began looking into engineering careers, and more specifically, mechanical engineering with a focus on transportation or manufacturing—two areas with high energy demands.

What do you hope to learn and achieve through your studies?

I hope to learn more about mechanical efficiencies and ways to improve how we use energy. I’m interested in doing research on ways manufacturers can achieve machine efficiencies closer to carnot efficiency. Carnot efficiency is the maximum efficiency that a heat engine could theoretically operate at. Sixty-four percent is this maximum, which means that in the ideal situation a heat engine could convert 64 percent of thermal energy into mechanical energy (i.e. rotating a shaft). Currently, even the best heat engines have efficiencies below 50 percent. I’m very interested in working with engines and I’m hopeful to do more research as there is much more that can be done to improve how heat engines operate.

How has the 3M Impact Transfer Scholarship been helpful to reaching your goals?

The scholarship has been a huge help in paying my tuition, which has allowed me to focus my time on school and furthering my goals by having time to go to events like job fairs, interviews, and speaker panels. I’m very grateful for the scholarship as I haven’t had to worry about how I’m going to find the money to pay for my education.

What projects have you worked on, any favorites that stand out?

This fall, I took an introduction to solid modeling class where I worked on my favorite project to date. I have an interest in building things, and I was tasked with disassembling a toy truck and using a caliper to measure the individual pieces, which I then modeled in SolidWorks. Once all the pieces were modeled, I assembled the toy truck in the program. This was such a fun experience as it was similar to building a Lego set, I just needed to first build the individual parts. This project made me realize how much I enjoyed building things in solid modeling programs, and therefore led to me searching for an internship using my solid modeling experience.

Can you share more about your current internship?

Currently, I am a mechanical engineer intern at AMI Consulting Engineers. The company does quite a variety of projects as there are various types of engineers including industrial, civil, and marine. My job is to work on the solid modeling of projects, and my first few weeks have had me learning how to use Inventor and Revit. It’s a fast-paced job, and I enjoy it so much. I’m able to learn more about the process engineers go through when discussing projects with clients, proposals, and the steps it takes to work from the bottom up. Just this past week, I finished the mechanical drawings for the central model of the big project I have been working on since starting my internship. Everyday is a new experience and I have a lot of fun modeling all the various parts I’m tasked with. Ductwork has been my main focus in the current project.

What has been your favorite part of being at the U of M so far?

My favorite part of the U of M is the opportunities available for students to advance in their future careers. I was able to become an undergraduate teaching assistant (TA) for my Solid Modeling course. This role involved designing midterm questions, grading, and providing assistance on projects. The U of M also holds both a fall and spring STEM job fair. I was able to meet with representatives of various STEM companies to discuss employment opportunities. This job fair, along with my role as a TA, led to me accepting an offer for my first internship. The U of M has made advancing in my future career a smooth process.

What are your plans for the future?

My plans for the future include graduating in the next two years. I also want to find a job working with engines or machines. I wouldn’t be opposed to the idea of doing research and potentially getting a master’s degree focusing on thermal efficiency of devices. I also think it would be interesting to have an internship in a different country as I’ve been learning French for about five years.