The Edison Edge: Christina Vasil
If you’d met Christina Vasil in 2017 and asked her what she wanted to do after finishing her master’s degree, she likely would have told you that she was going to become a researcher studying heat transfer. Then completing her thesis on thermal management of electronics, Christina envisioned a career closely tied to what she’d studied in college and graduate school. Though that’s the expected and perhaps typical trajectory for graduates, things have worked out a bit differently for Christina, who is now a research engineer at GE Research and a recent graduate of the Edison Engineering Development Program (EEDP).
Christina joined the EEDP after receiving both her BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. In her initial rotation, she worked with the Thermosciences team on gradient magnet technology for GE’s MRI machines, a highly experimental role that was closely aligned with her academic background. But the Edison program provided a unique opportunity for Christina to explore different technology domains, and as she moved along in the EEDP, her career expectations began to change.
While she entered the EEDP with an idea of what she wanted to do with her career, Christina was excited to experience the extensive opportunities that GE Research offers. Ultimately, it was the center’s technical breadth and depth that drew her to the Edison program. “The thing that stuck out about GE Research was how diverse it was: the people, the technologies, the sectors in which we operate. Getting to be a part of a rotational program at such a place seemed like an incredible opportunity for fast learning,” says Christina.
From the very start, she took that opportunity, and it’s changed her expected career path. As she wrapped up her first rotation, Christina decided that she wanted to try her hand in a more digital space while staying close to her physics-based roots. That decision led her to the additive manufacturing domain, where she worked with a team on scanning process optimization to increase the accuracy and efficiency of GE’s Direct Metal Laser Melting (DMLM) machines. There, she was primarily working on computer programming—something she’d never really done outside of college classes.
When it came time to move into her third rotation, Christina decided that she wanted to expand her software knowledge and refine her programming skills. Because she hadn’t been formally trained in computer science, there were some gaps in her knowledge of best practices and of software in general. To develop those skills, she remained in the additive manufacturing domain but transitioned into a role with the Software & Analytics group. For her last several months in the EEDP, she worked with a team to automate the testing of a commercial software that is being developed for the GE Additive business. Though the work was vastly different from what she’d always envisioned herself doing, she had the opportunity to foster her talents and interests in new research areas while working on projects that have a big impact across sectors.
To Christina, GE’s broad industrial portfolio is one of the things that makes GE Research so special. “We work on things that matter,” she says. “In just two years, I have been able to work on projects relating to energy, aviation, healthcare, and additive manufacturing, which I don't think I could have gotten anywhere else.” Opportunities to work across industries are abundant at GE Research, but it is the connections that Christina has made with her coworkers that have enabled her to take advantage of those opportunities. She’s learned that taking the time to meet other researchers is vital—often, the best ideas come from conversations had with people in other research groups and technology domains.
Christina’s willingness to explore different technical areas has transformed her expected career path. Now, she’s recently rolled off the EEDP and started a new position as a Research Engineer for Mechanical Synthesis in the Additive domain. During her time as an Edison, she developed a passion for the additive manufacturing industry, and she’s looking forward to gaining more experience in it. She’ll be doing more hands-on work in the lab, but she’ll still have opportunities to use her newly-refined programming skills. Christina is grateful for the role that the EEDP has played in helping her discover her interests and reach her goals. “I would have to say that the opportunity to explore and stretch yourself is one of the best parts of the program,” says Christina. “Without the Edison program, I would probably still be wondering ‘what if.’”