photo of Andrea Chavez
Technical Lead Engineer, Bell Helicopter Textron

Job Title

Technical Lead Engineer


Bell Helicopter Textron


Hurst, TX (Dallas - Forth Worth area)

Job Description

I am the technical lead for a research and development project called, “Future Advanced Rotorcraft Drive System,” in which we are building an optimized gear box under research and development and testing it in a test cell environment to see how the new and optimized components work at the end.

Why did you decide to pursue an aerospace engineering degree?

I’ve always been drawn towards math and science. In my senior year of high school, I had a calculus teacher, who graduated with an aerospace engineering degree. For the first time I was seeing real-world examples based on mathematics and that opened my eyes to aerospace. I was always drawn to space and to what was beyond, so that kind of inspired me to go towards the path of aerospace.

What student projects/organizations were you involved in with ASE/EM?

I was involved with the Student Ambassadors and attended AIAA and Women in Engineering meetings.

How did these groups help prepare you for your career?

In most of these meetings there would be someone from the industry who would talk about what they were doing. Things that might have been beyond aerospace but that might still apply to what we were going to be doing in the future.

I saw that someone who was once a student could actually work in the industry, be successful, and then come back and talk to students. That was definitely influential because it showed me that those people are real and they were just like me when I was a student.

Were you involved in any fellowship or internships? If so, please explain the benefits.

For one of the internships at Texas Department of Transportation, I mainly worked on intersections and creating traffic intersections using software. The benefits of this work were not necessarily in a technical aspect but more in the transition of being a student to working in a 9-to-5 type job, and understanding that sometimes you may be working in a computer environment all day.

Do you recommend any particular focus for students other than academics to improve themselves as potential candidates for jobs?

I think being part of sports in any aspect, having some sort of outlet like running or yoga, is critical. It is important to have some sort of outlet, like a physical activity, for when things do get a little too stressful. I enjoy running and bicycling. I’m fortunate enough to actually enjoy it but I’m not going out for time, trying to race, or be a competitive runner. It’s more of the enjoyment of the physical activity and the stress relief.

Are there courses at UT you wish you had taken? If so, which ones and why?

One of the courses that I really wish I had taken is a manufacturing class. It’s one thing to design a new part or analyze a new part, but another to understand how to make that part.

Why did you choose one track over the other (atmospheric/space)? Do you feel this has made any difference in your career?

At the time I was a student the difference between aerospace and aeronautics was only a few classes and a lab but I was ready to graduate and start working in the industry. I chose space mainly because that was what I intended. I did originally want to work at NASA, specifically in mission control. I did interview with NASA; I didn’t wind up working there. That’s when I interviewed for more of the atmospheric. To me, I was going to be happy getting a job in the industry with either aerospace or atmospheric.

What are your career goals?

I want to continue a technical path as long as I can. I feel, especially in the industry, that’s important. I’d like to stay in dry systems and looking at the transmission systems and I would like to have a leadership position within engineering that is related to the technical background that I have.

Who was your most influential ASE or EM professor and why?

Definitely Dr. Clemens. At the time I was a student there was a heat transfers class that was offered. I liked how he had real-world examples. I felt like I learned a lot because I did have a lot of interest in that class. He did experiments and explained things in a way that was real-world and applicable.

What has been your most influential ASE or EM course and why?

Heat transfer or thermodynamics because you are going to deal with your environment in some way that’s going to affect the physics or the conditions of whatever you’re working on. It’s important to have that understanding to be able to think out a problem and to be able to come out mathematically with some sort of solution.

What is one piece of advice you have for our students?

Keep an open mind as to where you would work. That mindset will help with your career growth. Each class that I took, I wondered if I would ever even use it in the industry and I feel like in some way, shape, or form a lot of the classes that I had have influenced that. Maybe keep some of your textbooks if you can. I do find myself referencing them from time to time. And pay more attention.

Do you have a favorite memory as a UT aerospace student?

One of my favorite memories was in Dr. Clemens’ class. He was showing us an example of how you can possibly burn yourself if you heat up a flat sheet of aluminum in an oven and take that same area of aluminum foil and wad it up into a ball, even though it’s the same area. But if you take it out as a sheet you can balance it in such a way that maybe you can avoid burning yourself. That was interesting to me because it’s the same area but the way it’s put together has different heat aspects to it, and he actually showed that as an example.

What are some things that most people don’t know about you?

Going back to my college days, I was always afraid to read books outside the curriculum books. I felt like I should be studying and not spending time reading these books over here. Now I absolutely love reading books. Also, I love running. I ran the Chicago Marathon in 2010.