The technology of tomorrow promises faster, smarter, and more efficient products, but how can engineering enable more responsible design and manufacturing without excessive waste? That’s industry’s modern-day challenge Marissa Brennan is excited to tackle with probing curiosity and a smile. Marissa is a participant in GE’s Edison Engineering Development Program (EEDP), a multi-year rotation-based program aimed at accelerating professional and technical development through business-critical assignments.
Marissa’s flair for the creative emerged early. At age 4 she fell in love with baton twirling – a sport that combines dance, music, and artistic expression; it’s highly competitive in central Pennsylvania, where Marissa grew up. She also immersed herself in science. With her father a high school chemistry teacher and Pennsylvania a hot bed for powder metallurgy, it’s no surprise that Marissa chose to pursue a STEM-based higher education.
She enrolled in Penn State’s Engineering Science program where she gained a broad, but solid understanding of the several engineering disciplines in addition to the many opportunities in each specialization.
“I really enjoyed materials science and when faced with the decision to focus on industry or pursue research, I initially chose research,” said Marissa. “Penn State’s world-class labs, faculty, and staff speak for themselves and play a pivotal role in solving global challenges. I enjoyed interacting with people from all different backgrounds.”
Marissa graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Science and continued pursuing technical research in Penn State’s Intercollege Materials Science and Engineering graduate program. It was there that one of her professors helped her realize that there was indeed opportunity to incorporate creative skills into engineering and specifically, metallurgy. In time, Marissa’s path became clear: a technical focus on materials science as a driver for sustainable engineering.
Her MS thesis focused on laser ultrasonics as a tool for measuring defects in additively manufactured nickel-superalloys, titanium, and stainless steel alloys. Marissa continued to hone her technical skills as a post graduate research assistant at Penn State’s Applied Research Lab.
In August 2019, Marissa joined the GE EEDP. Her first rotation was with the Materials team. “It was time for me to explore industry and from what I had heard from friends, professors, and recruiters, GE Research was a combination of industry and academia and a business that encouraged collaboration.”
Marissa’s first rotation included two projects. The first: defining imaging protocol for a two-phase nickel-based superalloy developed for GE Aviation to calibrate a precipitation model. This model predicts phase size, volume fraction, and particle morphology formation. Marissa also helped develop, test, and deliver a novel, metal-ceramic coating for GE Aviation.
“Coming to a company like GE I wasn’t sure what to expect, but my mentors were very attentive. They asked for my input and instilled a sense of trust and respect,” said Marissa. “There was a nice sense of community with everyone contributing to help move programs in the right direction.”
In October 2020, Marissa moved onto her second rotation, this time with the Coatings team. Her projects included development of an anti-dust coating for aircraft engine application and onsite tooling for in-field application. She also explored bond coat optimization and development of an advanced, high-temperature environmental barrier coating (EBC) using high velocity air fuel (HVAF) thermal systems. Marissa also worked with the Metallurgy team in Materials to define efficient and effective machining parameters of titanium aluminides (TiAl), popularly used in low pressure turbines blades (LPTBs).
Marissa recently started her third rotation and is back to her roots with the cutting-edge technology of additive manufacturing and powder metallurgy. Marissa will be supporting energy efficient programs with new alloy systems and implementations of powder metallurgy practices.
For Marissa, the EEDP has been a great first step in her pursuit of a career in sustainable and responsible engineering and design.
“A commitment to sustainability is critical, but for solutions to have an impact on the daunting environmental and social challenges we face, they must be part of a larger and more deliberate strategy,” said Marissa.
She believes that big business can have a significant impact in this area and that progressive approaches are key to curbing excessive waste and ushering in a new era of sustainability. Operating in the materials space, Marissa loves the idea of biomimicry, which is using nature to inspire problem solving approaches.
The Biomimicry Institute has great information on this practice, which GE Research is no stranger to. Inspired by the unique, jagged structures on the wings of Morpho butterflies, GE Research Principal Scientist Radislav Potyrailo led a team in the development of tiny sensors that detect faint traces of chemicals. Read more here. That project was among a few GE biomimicry successes that were highlighted in a New York Times feature about how nature is inspiring our industrial future. Check out the article here.
For Marissa, the future is limitless. “I’m excited to incorporate my creative skills into engineering and look forward to seeing what can be made possible in a unique, multi-disciplinary research space like GE.”