College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Courtnee Jackson, sophomore in aerospace engineering, finds her passion through internships

Like many engineers, Courtnee Jackson excelled at math and science in high school, which led her principal to Jackson photointroduce her to an aerospace engineering major. The St. Louis, Mo. native took an interest in the subject, but more so in the fact that her new friend was a female in engineering.

“I felt like she was doing something different, something that was great.” Now Jackson is a sophomore in aerospace herself and striving to make her own goals and achievements.

While she’s only in her second year of college, Jackson already has some impressive experiences under her belt. Last summer she conducted research at the Center for Nondestructive Evaluation at Iowa State and presented it at a conference in the fall, where she met her current employer.

Jackson works at Emerson in Marshalltown, Iowa, doing nondestructive testing again, which entails making sure products don’t destruct or determining how long it will take for them to destruct in order to plan maintenance.

Though the everyday work is challenging, Jackson said her co-op is one valuable learning opportunity. “The entire experience is new to me, and so far it has all been a challenge, but I know it’s going to make me great.”

One of the challenges Jackson has been tasked with at Emerson is public speaking—something she says was not a strong talent of hers. “I think my boss notices that, which is why he has me do a lot of presentations.”

It’s understandable that she would be given so much responsibility only a few months into her co-op because she proved her abilities in the first few days. Jackson started out working with spreadsheets of data on pressure valves, how they are measured and how they change. Looking it over, she found a mistake.

It was a simple error: “Numbers that were positive should have been negative,” she said. “I mentioned it to my boss, and he sent out a group email to everybody. That actually felt really good because it was my second day and everybody said, ‘Hey, good job!’ It was a great experience.”

Jackson said she’s been assigned to several big projects all at once, which makes her feel like her supervisors have confidence in her abilities. She said she just works harder all the time to complete them, and hearing ‘Good job!’ at the end of a project keeps her motivated.

One goal she’s made for herself before she leaves Emerson is to develop her own patent. Many of the employees she works with have patents for new discoveries and product tests, and Jackson wants to add that to her long list of achievements.

Jackson’s recent co-op has made her think more about her future and what she’d like to do in her career. Though she does think she would like working at Emerson in the future, she’s also looking for internships in different positions to get a variation of experiences before she decides exactly what job she wants.

“I’ve been trying to get internships to figure out exactly what I’m passionate about, and even though I’ve only been at Emerson a couple months, I feel that this work might be my calling,” said Jackson. “I really enjoy it—it’s a challenge for me, but once I get it, it’s kind of like a rush. If I can do some kind of testing for a career, that’s probably what I’d like to do.”