Editor’s note: This post was written by Makita Phillips, a recent Ph.D. graduate from NC State’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. The post is an entry in an ongoing series that we hope will highlight the diversity of researchers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The series is inspired by the This Is What A Scientist Looks Like site.
Hello there! My name is Makita R. Phillips and I am a recent mechanical engineering doctoral graduate of NC State. My research in the Schwartz Group, led by Dr. Justin Schwartz, focused on the impact of various insulation materials on the thermal management of a superconducting coil. Don’t worry, I will explain.
As we continue to technologically advance, various energy sources need to be developed to accommodate our needs. The idea of increasing energy efficiency is a priority to reduce the economic and ecological impact of our energy system. The main areas of impact are production, transmission, and storage.
Superconductors are materials that have zero electrical resistance when cooled to a specific temperature and can produce and expel magnetic fields. During the production phase, superconductors can be used for fusion energy containment and in generators. For the transmission phase, superconductor cables and fault current limiters can be incorporated into the grid. When energy must be stored from production and transmission, superconducting magnetic energy storage (SMES) systems can be used as well. The advantage of superconductors over their traditional counterparts is their small size and electrical conductance capabilities due to zero resistance. However, research is needed on superconductor cooling requirements, and other areas of concern that cause instability, in order to increase mainstream adoption of these technologies. My work with insulation is to help us understand how we can look at materials differently in order to maintain the temperature levels needed to use superconductors.
When I’m not spending time with my research, I participate in a lot of activities. I like things that work toward the complete development of my mind, body and spirit. Personal development and community service fall into that category for me. I love physical activities ranging from half marathons to group fitness classes. I am a member of Raleigh North Christian Center, where I am involved in the dance ministry and a co-leader of the youth dance ministry. I am an avid movie-goer that will watch any genre but horror films (action films are my favorite). I am also interested in activities that increase minority and women participation in STEM fields. I currently serve on the National Executive Board of the National Society of Black Engineers as the National Leadership Institute Chair. I also am the founder of the Minority Engineering Graduate Student Association (MEGSA) at NC State.
As an engineer, I am a problem solver at heart. I solve problems to make a positive contribution to society. I take pride in my research and personal endeavors. While most of society knows the technical capabilities of engineers, it is important to understand we aren’t just defined by them. I am not a unicorn. Most researchers have a variety of hobbies ranging from flag football to photography. I enjoy what I do and would not change it if I had the chance. I am Dr. Makita R. Phillips and I am what an engineer at NC State looks like.