Thomas Maeder

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Maeder setting up a micro-focus digital X-ray image for a test part in a Boeing research and development vault.

Like many students, Thomas Maeder’s first career opportunity stemmed from an internship. Now, the non-destructive evaluation engineer works full-time for Boeing Research and Technology, in Seattle, Washington. While in school, Maeder was involved with several Make to Innovate teams, including University Student Launch Initiative, Design Build Fly, and Society of Automotive Engineers Aero-Design. And now, as a Boeing employee he has the same opportunity to work on a variety of projects each day.


 

What are your job duties?

My general job duties are pretty wide ranging. I support the in-service fleet through the development of inspection procedures and work on emergent issues such as the 787 battery issue and other fleet issues. I also support research and development work on the materials side of the company by pre-testing, during testing, and post testing inspection of advanced parts. One of the final general duties of my job is the writing of specifications that we use to certify suppliers to inspect product before they ship it to us.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I think my favorite part of my job is the variety of projects I get to work on, and the slight unpredictability that working in fleet and research support brings. On any day I can walk into the office and I could be working on specification development, supporting a structural test going on in one of the labs, or working on an issue that one of the fleet customers has. I really enjoy the fact that every day is a little different.

What advice would you offer current aerospace engineering undergrads?

My advice would be to find the subject focus in the aerospace program that you love. Everyone has their thing, whether it is propulsion, structures, controls, or space. You need to find the spot that you love working on. When you get into a company most of the time you are going to be working in a specific area, you won’t be working the whole aircraft system. So when picking an area that you are potentially going to spend 40+ years working, you want to make sure it’s an area that you look forward to working in each day.

What is the most valuable thing you learned as an aerospace engineering undergrad?

I think the biggest thing I learned is to be flexible. You have to be ready to change your direction and pick up a different project at the drop of a hat, if that’s what is required of you.

What is your fondest memory of your time at ISU?

I think my fondest memory from ISU happened during my senior year during the SAE competition. We had been driving for 3 days to get to LA for competition over spring break. I was tired and irritated from all of the long hours we had been putting in on the project over the previous few weeks. The first full day we were in LA we went to the competition field to take a few test runs with our aircraft. We had some troubles getting the engine to pull fuel properly and start. When we finally did get it started and taxied out to the runway we ended up having to wait for a couple of other groups to finish up their flights before we were cleared. When we finally got cleared I remember just wanting to get it over with so we could go back to the hotel. But watching our plane take off made all of the work we put in over the last 2 semesters worth it in an instant. It’s hard to describe what it feels like to watch something that you designed and built from the ground up take off and fly for the first time. But that is still one of the most vivid and enjoyed memories I have from my time at ISU.