Caroline Baer '12

Caroline is a systems engineer specializing in maintainability and human factors with the Skunk Works Group at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. She graduated from Purdue University with a B.S. focused in Industrial & Systems Engineering and a minor in Psychology.

Describe your job at Lockheed Martin.

Basically, I study the engineers who work on my team and try to optimize their performance. Our team goal is to make sure the most amount of aircraft are capable at all times. I do a lot of guided user interface design with web pages and dashboards using both my engineering knowledge and creative abilities. I work to educate team members on the influence of design and visual communication on data and decision making and engineering analysis.

I also look at engineering problems or engineering design issues in terms of the human use and the psychology behind it. For example, I work on improving cockpit design to maximize the pilot’s cognitive workload by incorporating effective placement and use of buttons, screens and other controls. We look at depth perception and the physical and visual capabilities of the human eye as it relates to a helmet.

How do you use what you learned in the visual arts in your job?

When I was in college, I reached out to Cara Foster, my former teacher, and asked her to send me a copy of the brainstorming guidelines, called Synectic Trigger mechanisms, that we used in class to trigger new solutions and evolutions of an idea. I used that tool during college and now with the team I am leading at Lockheed Martin. Working with fellow engineers, many of whom have been with the company 25+years, I needed a way to stimulate more creative thinking with our design work on data analytics. I use a lot of the things now with my team that I learned in Whitfield photo class in terms of how we review each other’s designs and give good, constructive feedback.

Describe your experience in Whitfield’s fine arts program.

I would not be as well-rounded as a person without my experience in Whitfield’s visual and performing arts classes and activities. I took photography and had the opportunity to be a thespian and participate in theater productions. Through those experiences I gained new perspectives and developed a willingness about being open to studying new things. If I hadn’t been at Whitfield, I would not have developed that open-minded attitude which has been so beneficial to me.

Companies want people who are innovators—people who know how to face a problem, brainstorm solutions, think creatively and problem solve effectively. Whitfield gave me the perfect environment to foster these skills which are valuable to me, my team and my company.