Graduating engineering student finds "dream job"

Senior Tara D'Ambruoso explains her project during at Senior Design Demonstration Day at Gampel Pavilion on April 29, 2016. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

Tara D’Ambruoso doesn’t remember a time when she wasn’t infatuated with NASA. Science and mathematics have always been her favorite subjects, and she says once you understand the fundamentals, you can do anything.

D’Ambruoso earned the Faculty Award at the conclusion of the University of Connecticut Engineering Senior Design Demonstration Day on April 29.  She had no idea that her project would win, although she has spent countlessly more hours in Engineering II with sand particles than she has outside the building.

“I was shocked to receive the faculty award. This is given to the team that successfully applies the fundamental principles of mechanical engineering to their solution… I was very honored to be recognized for mine,” she said.

Her senior design project’s focus was the removal of calcium magnesium alumina silicate (CMAS) from the air that flows through jet engines.

“CMAS is a problem because it degrades engine performance and reliability by wearing down compressor airfoils, infiltrating thermal barrier coatings and blocking film cooling holes on high pressure turbine blades,” D’Ambruoso said. So, if you’re not an engineering prodigy, just know that CMAS is bad for engines. 

D’Ambruoso explained that CMAS removal became a prominent challenge in the first Persian Gulf War because military engines were exposed to harsh desert environments with sand-laden air.      

“A challenge was the small 1-100 microns size of the particles,” she said. “To put this into perspective, a very fine human hair is 40 microns, which is also the limit of the human eye for a single object.”

D’Ambruoso evaluated all of the existing separation technologies and chose an “electrostatic inertial particle separator” as the method of separation for her design.

“This [design] uses the inertia of the particles in addition to the electric attraction to direct the them away from the engine core,” she said.

She described the senior design course as the most difficult class she has taken at UConn, but the one she has learned the most in.

“Senior design gives us insight into real engineering problem solving,” D’Ambruoso said. “There is no textbook way to solve any of these problems, which is something we are not use to as students. It really puts your problem solving to the test.”

She will begin her career full-time at Pratt and Whitney in the Hot Section Design Rotational Program. Her first rotation is in Adaptive Engine Technology Development (AETD) where she will be working on military engines.

“I’ve always wanted to work on military projects because I believe it is a way to help keep our soldiers safer by giving them the best technology we can,” D’Ambruoso said.

She goes forward keeping in mind her favorite quote by Brian Herbert: “The capacity to learn is a gift. The ability to learn is a skill. The willingness to learn is a choice.”

“This is another reason why I love engineering - it is a field where you never stop learning,” D’Ambruoso reflected. “Pratt and Whitney emphasizes the importance of lifelong learning.”

Her next step will include simultaneously working at her dream job while earning her Masters in Mechanical Engineering at UConn. 


Megan Krementowski is associate life editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at megan.krementowski@uconn.edu.