Dr. Amy Elliott is a full research staff at Oak Ridge National Lab where she serves as principle investigator for binder jet additive manufacturing (AM). She and her team research technologies for a variety of industrial applications, including but not limited to new binders, densification methods for powder preforms made with AM, and new material systems which are compatible with indirect AM technologies. Dr. Elliott has received two R&D 100 awards, published over 50 journal articles, co-authored a book, and has several patents in the AM space. In 2012, Dr. Elliott was cast on Discovery Channel’s The Big Brain Theory, a reality show competition for engineers, where she placed 2nd out of 10 contestants. In her free time, Amy tinkers with hobby 3D printers and films as a science-personality for the Science Channel’s Outrageous Acts of Science, explaining the engineering and science behind viral video clips. Dr. Elliott and her husband are also members of Eva Haakanson’s electric racing team and have traveled to the salt flats in Utah and Australia pit crew for Eva’s land-speed racing attempts.
What advice would you share with someone looking into a career in additive manufacturing in 2020?
The biggest advice I have for someone getting into AM is question, question, question! Although the technology seems mature, the field is very new, and there are a lot of assumptions out there that are driving big decisions.
So, question the norm! We are at a very sweet time in the technology development where small questions can make big changes.
When hiring, what are you looking for in a candidate?
Additive Manufacturing is just that – manufacturing! You need to understand how things are made, and hopefully have some hands-on experience yourself. That’s what we look for in candidates – professionals who aren’t afraid to get dirty, who like troubleshooting machines and processes, but can also take a step back and look at the fundamental science that’s going on.
What is the best advice you were given in your career?
The guys aren’t holding their gender on their shoulders, so neither should you.
In your experience, what are some actionable ways we can promote gender equality?
I think the best way to promote gender equality starts with equal pay. Not being compensated fairly sends a huge, un-erasable message to the employee that they aren’t valued.
A good way to ensure equal pay is to keep men and women who are hired at about the same time receive similar bonuses, raises and awards each year.
How can a company like Oak Ridge National Laboratory be a leader in gender equality and diversity in our industry?
From my experience, Oak Ridge National Laboratory is doing so much to ensure gender equality, I feel very fortunate to be a part of it all. First, I am noticing a lot of movement of women and minorities into leadership positions and mentoring newer women/minority staff for leadership early in their careers. Second, I’ve seen the organization actively assessing compensation across the lab to ensure women are receiving equal pay, and being transparent about that process. Finally, the leadership here are just the best “cheerleaders” to women – we are given lots of resources to form women’s organizations and address gender issues at the lab. We are listened to, and changes are made when we voice our thoughts. And my boss is the most positive and encouraging person I’ve ever met! That goes a long way when you’re going through the struggles that come with careers in general.
As a leader, quite a few people are looking up to you. I’d like to know who inspires you.
Dean Kamen is my ultimate role model. He made his fortune inventing some really important technology, and he put that money back into inventing more important technology. He also started FIRST Robotics, which is the high school competition league that got me into STEM and changed my life. Plus he flies a helicopter to work. How cool is that?
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I think the most important thing to remember as a woman in 3D printing or STEM in general is that there are a lot of very rewarding careers out there for us women, and there are so many supportive people out there.
If you don’t feel like you’re supported, look for those better options.