By Kyra Arena, Written Communications Assistant
As an alumna of UConn, Girija Marathe has learned the value of embracing every opportunity that comes her way. Throughout her journey, she has encountered countless situations where she had to roll up her sleeves and dive headfirst into something unfamiliar or challenging. And while it may be intimidating at first, she has always come out on the other side stronger. So, don’t be shy about getting your hands dirty – it is through these experiences that we grow and learn the most.
Marathe is currently a senior engineer at a Fortune 500 Company, Otis, which is the largest manufacturer of vehicle transportation systems. Marathe’s primary responsibility is to support and sustain materials engineering activities. She provides materials engineering support for Otis’ supply chain, their factories, and their commitment to quality. She also performs failure analysis, reviewing, and revising of Otis material specifications in compliance with industry standards. She is further involved with developing cost effective and robust materials engineering solutions for mechanical components of elevators. “Some of my projects are surface engineering of shafts, electronic safety actuators, analyzing coating alternatives on belt cords, and developing and understanding the failure mechanism of safety friction surfaces,” she says.
Prior to her job at Otis, Marathe served as a senior metallurgist at Schaeffler Aerospace. Her role was to maintain bearing quality from raw materials through to the final product stage. She oversaw new heat treat process development to meet customer requirements, wrote internal quality documents and procedures for their Heat Treat and Metallurgical laboratory, and audited heat treat and metallurgical labs at the Danbury and Winsted Schaeffler plants. She also trained new technicians about new customer and internal metallurgical requirements, and performed metallurgical failure analysis on returned parts. “One of the projects which I cherish the most from my time at Schaeffler involved working with the vacuum carburizing process. That included installation of the furnace, process development of the ring component subject to respective customer approvals, writing internal documentation, and ultimately helping to get the plant ready for NADCAP certification for vacuum carburizing process in order to be certified by the Aerospace Auditing committee for full time production,” states Marathe.
The field of materials science and engineering is still very male-dominated, and Marathe acknowledges that she faced some challenges and pushback when she first started her career. “In the beginning, I sensed that sometimes my suggestions and inputs were ignored in meetings, or even passed off by others as their [male coworkers] own,” she says. “However, a short time after I realized this, I started building alliances across teams and got more vocal about my suggestions.” Thus, Marathe’s determination and hard work led to significant accomplishments and successes within her career.
Marathe joined the field of materials science and engineering due to a close family friend who was a MSE professor at her undergraduate university. She later decided to pursue a higher degree in MSE and earned her Ph.D. from UConn in 2011. “I chose to attend UConn because there were very few universities which had metallurgical engineering programs with active research in the field of powder metallurgy or mechanical metallurgy,” she says.
At UConn, Professor Herbert served as a key role model in Marathe’s journey as a graduate student. “Professor Hebert’s calm persona and empathetic nature really supported me through my studies. UConn also enabled me to expand my horizons by exposing me to other materials technologies like developing bulk laminates using ARB, metallic glass,” Marathe says. “I was very fortunate to have a tightly knit and collaborative group of friends and fellow researchers who helped me overcome challenges faced during my graduate journey.”
She also has some helpful advice for students looking to pursue a career in MSE. “One very important lesson I learnt in my career was to gain a few years of experience in the manufacturing and production world. Shopfloor and production floor experience really helped me understand the importance on how real time problems can impact the production and quality of the product,” Marathe states. “Don’t be shy to get your hands dirty while working on the production floor. Be eager to learn something new every day.”