Inspiration leads student to WE@BYU mentorship

Fifth time’s the charm, right? For Amy Briggs it was. Briggs changed her major five times before landing on mechanical engineering, a program she has gotten heavily involved in since joining in 2013. She is currently the president of the Society of Women Engineers on campus and plans to graduate in April.

In 2014, Briggs was chosen for a WE@BYU: Women in Engineering and Technology Research Mentorship. The mentorship is for first- and second-year female students in the engineering and technology college, allowing them to do research work while being mentored by a faculty member in a laboratory.

Briggs worked with Jonathan Blotter, a mechanical engineering professor, on developing a whole body vibration system, which is exercise equipment that increases muscle strength and bone mass. She worked mostly on product development and design, which she enjoyed. She said working with Blotter and a few graduate students was a great experience for her.

“The mentorship really just provided me with an opportunity to gain confidence,” Briggs said. “I was working with grad students who knew a lot more than me, but it was nice because Dr. Blotter and the grad students still found tasks that I could complete, even though I was still a little newbie.”

One of the biggest things Briggs gained from the mentorship was the ability to ask for help.

“I’m a shy person, so having that mentorship taught me that even if you don’t know how to size a motor, there are people around you that do know and you just have to go talk to people and people are usually pretty nice about helping you,” Briggs said. “I’m not shy in asking people for help and if they don’t know, asking them if they know someone who does know. Somebody knows the answer and you have to find that person.”

Before Briggs joined the mechanical engineering program, she decided to serve a mission in the Philippines. While serving in the mission field, she thought about what career she wanted and what she wanted to major in. She recalled a quote from President Eyring’s father, Henry Eyring, that was on her mind for most of her mission.

“’What do you think about when you’re not thinking about anything else at all,’” Briggs quoted. “My mission provided a great opportunity to really put that to the test because my mind was always focused on missionary work and the language except these brief moments of just me and my thoughts.”

She remembered a time when she and her companion were riding in a tricycle, which is a taxi service motorcycle with a side-car, and she was drawing free-body diagrams in her mind, trying to figure out how shocks worked to keep the bike stable as it went over bumpy ground. It was then that she knew she was on the right path of either physics or mechanical engineering.

A year after she returned from her mission and chose mechanical engineering over physics, Briggs was working at as a teacher at the MTC when she felt inspired to change some things in her life.

“The time came in February of 2014 that I was listening to a devotional on campus and God just talked to me,” she said.  “He told me I needed to quit my job at the MTC and I needed to get more involved in my major and at about that exact time I had noticed a number of emails from SWE.”

Within a week, Briggs was in the office of Lisa Barrager, a coordinator for the college’s Women Student Initiatives, asking how she could get more involved. That is when she found out about SWE and the WE@BYU Mentorship. She immediately applied for an opportunity to work in a lab as a part of the mentorship program.

Since her mentorship, Briggs has had multiple internships and has studied abroad. She is currently working with Julie Crockett, a professor of mechanical engineering, and a PhD student doing research about internal waves. She will graduate in April and will begin working at Raytheon in Tucson, Arizona, a job she landed at the BYU Stem Career Fair. She plans to use the lessons she learned during her mentorship when she starts working.

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