Stacy Hamlet is Mechanical Engineering Consultant at DuPont. For over 200 years, DuPont has been synonymous with life-changing discoveries and scientific know-how, reinventing themselves along the way.
Stacy Hamlet’s Story
When did your interest in science or engineering begin?
I was always interested in science and math from a young age. I wanted to understand how and why things happened in the world around me. I tended to keep asking questions until I understood whatever topic was being discussed. My father was a mechanical engineer and my mother a teacher, so I had plenty of people to keep explaining things. In high school, I gravitated to calculus, physics, and chemistry.
What was it like to be a woman studying in your field?
There were not a lot of women in mechanical engineering at my university. I felt like the women stood out a bit – everyone knew our names, even if we did not know them. However, I don’t feel like it had a big impact on me, as we were all there to learn as much as we could. I did take a welding class freshman year, and there was one other woman in the class with me. We would meet in the ladies room after class to clean the smudges off our faces before our next class. It was interesting to surprise people that there were two women in that class learning how to Arc Weld. I’m very happy my undergraduate advisor recommended it.
Share with us some of your career highlights.
I started working at the DuPont Louisville site as an Assistance to Operations Engineer. My job was to help keep the plant running, including materials engineering and small projects work. From there, I moved into the central engineering department of DuPont doing Advanced Engineering Measurements. This built on my graduate school experience doing experimental fluid mechanics, and allowed me to work on many, different exciting projects. We launched 2×4’s at 100 miles per hour to help develop Kevlar® reinforced Tornado Shelters for our Safety Business. I also ran a measurements program to solve a very expensive mechanical seal failure occurring on a piece of equipment in what was then our Titanium Dioxide Business. I designed the measurement plan, lead the team that installed the dynamic instrumentation and data collection system, and analyzed the data. We found the root cause in the bearing specification, and, with a bearing change, increased average seal life from about a one month to over a year. This was a large savings for a business that was sold out.
To date, what project is your greatest innovation success? What is the story behind it?
My greatest innovation success comes from my work on heat treating Tyvek®. After starting a family, I moved from Advanced Engineering Measurements, which involved a lot of travel, to thermal/fluids analysis focusing on heat transfer. This involved a great deal of finite element simulation, allowed much less travel and much more flexibility, and also built on my graduate school work. As I started analyzing Tyvek® heat treating, I realized that much of the difficulty was in the changing sheet properties as it bonded together – the more bonded parts of the sheet transferred heat differently than the less bonded parts. I needed to understand the heat transfer properties in all the different locations to accurately predict the final sheet. The different locations were too small to get any kind of accurate measurements of sheet properties. So, building on my measurements and machine dynamics past, I flipped the problem over, and decided that we could create a whole sheet that would represent the different bonding levels in the different locations. This understanding of sheet properties as a function of different bonding levels has been applied to manufacturing and quality issues, as well as new product and process development for DuPont.
Tell us about something that made you grow the most as a leader in your field.
I had an excellent mentor that pushed me to both expand my talents and skills, but also demonstrated what good program management and mentorship looked like. I allowed me to see how I could use my ability to pull other talented people together to accomplish results and reach technical successes for DuPont.
How are you and/or your company bringing innovation to the forefront?
As part of the Research and Development group for Tyvek® protective fabric, we are challenged to innovate in a technology area that has been commercial for over 50 years. As such, the “low hanging fruit” has been explored and innovation requires a deeper understanding and commitment than for a product in its infancy. The proof that innovation is still possible is apparent in DuPont’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our R&D and production teams developed a new COVID-19 response fabric, 1222A #TyvekTogether, to increase the total amount of Tyvek® fabric available for PPE. This demonstrated that innovation is still critical and can make a significant difference in the world.
What advice do you have for future female engineers?
My advice is to talk to many different people doing many different things in and around your field. Find the people doing work that really interests or motivates you and then figure out what those specific programs all have in common. Then map out the steps you need to take to be doing similar work. Engineers can do all sorts of different jobs – it’s a broad field of problem solving. Figure out what kind of problems you want to solve. And then be okay with yourself if that changes throughout your career. It probably will.