EoM Turns Double the Challenges into Double the "Gaines"

By:        Staci Jones
Date:     August 2, 2017

Alexia Gaines, electrical engineering junior, is the UC College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) Engineer of the Month (EoM) for August.

Alexia Gaines

Opportunity and experiences beyond the classroom are what led August Engineer of the Month, Alexia Gaines, to choose the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS).

“I wanted to be able to go to college and get involved in my different interests, meet new people, and get an education that went further than just book knowledge,” said Alexia.

Alexia credits CEAS’ cooperative education (co-op) program in combination with the Darwin T. Turner Scholars Program for providing her with an abundant flow of opportunities, and a home away from home.

Alexia has a passion for helping others and in deciding which focus she would take within engineering, she felt that electrical engineering would marry that passion with her love for problem solving.

“I’ve always been interested in technology and how you can use that technology to make people’s lives both easier and safer,” said Alexia, “Electrical engineering best fits my interests and how I would like to contribute to that mission.”

In being a 2nd generation college student, and with both of her parents being educators, Alexia states that she sometimes faces the challenge of feeling out of depth.

“It can be hard when you don’t understand material even when you study it for hours, or when you are given a project on co-op that you have not yet been prepared for,” said Alexia

She states that another challenge she faces is being a double minority in the field – “As a Black Woman Electrical Engineering student, I feel there is more pressure not to fail.”

Though Alexia finds the field to be sometimes challenging, she states that she is grateful for the obstacles she encounters, “I think these challenges have pushed me to be better, because they have showed me how much I actually know and what I can do, even though I thought I couldn’t. It also means that I have to continually grow, learn and push myself.”

Alexia likes to joke with her co-op co-workers that she used to feel incompetent until she realized that a lot of being an engineer is being completely confused – and then figuring it out.

Her first co-op rotation was research-based as one of the six freshmen selected to participate in the 2015 Protégé Research Program. She was simultaneously accepted into the 2015 WISE Program. During this co-op, Alexia worked on a biomedical/electrical engineering research project that worked to develop biosensors for sequencing specific nucleic detection in handheld, portable devices.  The impact of the research project is expected to have wide-spread applications; from cancer detection and genetic disorder diagnostics, to food pathology and forensic science.

For her second co-op round, she completed an International Experiential Experience Program (EEP) during the spring and summer semesters in 2016. She lived and studied in Seoul, South Korea at Korea University where she took engineering courses, toured engineering labs, and experienced the intricacies of Korean language and culture.

Alexia’s third and current co-op is with Standex-Meder Electronics, a company that specializes in sensors and relay switches. She states that the company has a “womb to tomb” ideology, meaning that she has been able to do a little of everything – designing, testing, programming, documenting, and more.

“The company culture really fits my goals and values,” said Alexia, “the approaching end to my co-op term is bitter-sweet, but I am already looking forward to my next co-op rotation here!”

A few of her proudest achievements were achieved during co-op rotations. The one which she considers the greatest achievement is completing some of her engineering courses while studying abroad in South Korea. “After about three weeks of school, the professors switched almost completely to Korean from English,” said Alexia. Luckily, she had been self-studying Korean and states that it was exciting and gratifying to be able to use it in her study-abroad experience.

Alexia’s advice to fellow students is, “Treat being a student as a full-time job – not as your life.” She states that learning information and getting good grades is important, but not the only important thing in life.

“Much like a job, being a student includes sick days and vacation days, days where we feel unfocused and days where we can concentrate easily, days where we cross everything off our list and days where we get one thing done . . . two if we’re lucky. However, a healthy work-life balance entails having external hobbies outside of work, and it means knowing when to study and when to take a break,” said Alexia.

Some of her best memories have happened during her external hobbies, and include; being tapped into Lambda and CWEST, giving tours to prospective students, singing with the AACRC choir family, chatting in the EPS office, and having dinner with the Turner Scholars Buddy family tree.

Alexia most looks forward to the exciting possibilities awaiting her in the field.

“There are new discoveries being made every day, and better design iterations being established in a myriad of areas from the medical field to the automobile industry,” said Alexia, “I like that electrical engineering has a broad applicability to many of these fields, and I’m excited to see how I can participate.”

Upon graduating in 2019, Alexia does not currently have any explicit plans. However, she stated that she would be interested in working for a company with a similar culture and industry focus as her current co-op.

The College of Engineering and Applied Science congratulates Alexia Gaines on her outstanding achievements thus far and as the August Engineer of the Month.

Select for previous Engineers of the Month.