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Engineer’s connection in college lab brings her to Carderock

By Edvin Hernandez, NSWC Carderock Division Public Affairs | March 25, 2020

From one assignment to the next, Jenna Gietl’s tireless work ethic as a mechanical engineer in the Systems Development Branch at Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division has transformed her into a motivated problem solver.

Inspired by her mother’s career in the medical field, Gietl pursued a profession in engineering after attending a high school that offered plenty of diversity in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) related subjects. Surrounded by students from multiple backgrounds, Gietl never felt out of place and was curious to learn new ways to find a solution.

“I think the idea of going into a STEM field came from my mom, she is definitely a problem solver and an adaptive person,” Gietl said. “I also went to this really good high school in Alabama where you were surrounded by a bunch of brilliant people. I had a strong background in math and problem solving, in general – so naturally I thought engineering was a good fit for me.”  

Having spent most of her life in Montgomery, Alabama, Gietl moved to Washington D.C., after being recruited to play tennis at The Catholic University of America (CUA) in 2014. She entered college as a mechanical engineering major, often working in the school’s acoustic and vibration lab. Only a couple steps from the Brookland-CUA metro stop on the Red Line, Gietl took advantage of her location by exploring famous D.C. attractions on weeknights and weekends. As a student-athlete, she carried a compressed schedule, but that never stopped her from spending time with friends.

While working in the acoustic and vibration lab at CUA, Gietl met John Sterling – a Carderock engineer and Ph.D. student at the time – who offered to tour her around the command and introduce her to fellow employees in the Systems Development Branch.

“Once I saw what went on here, I knew it was pretty clear where I wanted to be,” she said.

Gietl earned her bachelor and master’s degree in mechanical engineering in May 2018 after completing a difficult curriculum that included her senior design project and master’s thesis within the same year.

“I was pretty proud of getting my master’s degree and finishing my thesis,” she said. “Everything that could have gone wrong – went wrong, but I kept pushing – and it would not have happened if I didn’t push so hard.”

Upon graduating, she returned home to Alabama where she spent the next couple of months traveling to visit friends and family. In September 2018, she accepted an engineering position at Carderock and moved to Fairfax, Virginia.

Since joining the command, she has volunteered to support several projects, eagerly looking for ways to get more involved.

“What I love most about Carderock is the flexibility,” Gietl said. “Something that you don’t learn in school is that the opportunities aren’t always right in front of you. Sometimes you have to go and find them, and you might have to bug some people, but being proactive will teach you more. It’s easy to be complacent, but if you don’t want to be, the fact that you can do rotations or work three projects in one code makes this a good place to work.”

Currently, Gietl is supporting onboard tracking systems, which ‘riders’ use on sea trials. ‘Riders’ are engineers that assist in setting up, fixing and taking down equipment during each trial. She is also developing new tracking systems with her team and has been involved with shaker lab projects, too. One of her most interesting projects is working as a part of an Integrated Process Team (IPT) that is working to upgrade one of Carderock’s detachments, the South TOTO Acoustic Measurement Facility (STAFAC), in Titusville, Florida.