Johns Hopkins APL’s Sharp Honored for Engineering Excellence

Wed, 04/20/2022 - 10:56
Nicole Choi
The Young Engineer of the Year award
The Young Engineer of the Year award is presented annually to just one individual, who is selected from a pool of members across 36 professional societies that belong to DCCEAS.

Credit: Johns Hopkins APL/Craig Weiman

Jackie Sharp, a mechanical engineer at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, has earned the District of Columbia Council of Engineering and Architectural Societies (DCCEAS) Young Engineer of the Year award.

Sharp, who works in APL’s Research and Exploratory Development Department, was nominated by the Washington, D.C., chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and selected from a pool of members across 36 professional societies belonging to DCCEAS.

“ASME does a lot of great work,” said Sharp, who has been involved with the organization since she was an undergraduate. “It’s nice to be recognized for my excitement and enthusiasm for engineering, and for my accomplishments so far.”

Engaging Engineers

Much of Sharp’s work for ASME involves outreach and engagement. She reaches out to local universities to improve the conversion rate from ASME’s student chapters to its professional ones, and she drums up enthusiasm among colleagues to join the professional society and leverage its resources.

She also serves as treasurer of Washington’s chapter and was one of seven individuals selected to participate in ASME’s Early Career Leadership Intern Program to Serve Engineering (ECLIPSE) initiative. Through ECLIPSE, Sharp works closely with ASME’s board of governors to help guide the organization’s strategic national and international objectives; she is also developing a virtual dashboard to identify areas for ASME engagement with the most potential for impact.

“The dashboard will allow ASME to evaluate census data, engineering industry data and member interest, and will serve as a planning tool,” Sharp said. “ASME could use it to identify particular regions where it could plan events and find volunteers, increasing membership and engagement.”

Inspiring Students

Sharp also teaches robotics at APL’s STEM Academy, sharing her enthusiasm for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects with high school students. This is of particular importance to Sharp, whose high school teacher set her on the path to becoming an engineer.

Sharp’s childhood dream was to play ice hockey. That came to an abrupt halt the day she was hit by a car, which had run a red light, while she was walking to a bus station after school.

“The doctor found a missing vertebra in my neck and said I wasn’t allowed to play hockey anymore,” Sharp said.

A teacher encouraged her to explore engineering, and Sharp, looking for a new after-school activity, joined the robotics team.

“I fell in love with the process of making, the smell of the shop and the quick decision-making required in competitions,” Sharp said. Her involvement with robotics led Sharp to APL not long after she earned her graduate degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh.

“I was working for QinetiQ North America, and we were making robots for a project that APL was the integrator for. Someone I worked with encouraged me to apply for a job at the Lab,” Sharp said. “Shortly after, my mom met someone while waitressing at a hotel who gave her his business card and told me to apply.”

Sharp joined APL as an intern in 2019 and became a full-time staff member in 2020.

Technical Contributions and Community Impact

Since relocating to Maryland in 2020, Sharp has continued to make an impact on her community through her work and her volunteer efforts. And — her love for the game trumping doctor’s orders — she joined the local women’s hockey league, where she began mobilizing with a group of individuals to establish a nonprofit, DMV Women’s Hockey, to benefit women and minority hockey players.

“I had to save my own money to play ice hockey because my family couldn’t afford it,” Sharp said. “It’s a privileged sport, so we’re trying to make it accessible to the women who weren’t able to play when they were younger.”

At the Laboratory, Sharp served as co-principal investigator (PI) on an internally funded project to develop a wearable device to regulate body heat, transforming waste heat from the body into power. She also served as the co-PI on another APL-funded project to develop a standardized, accurate capability for medical responders to estimate blood loss in significant trauma scenarios.

“Jackie is a brilliant engineer, and her expertise is unique in that it lies in both mechanical and electrical engineering,” said Mike Boyle, who leads the Mechanical Engineering Systems Analysis Group in REDD. “I’m in awe of her attitude toward work and life. Jackie has already accomplished so much in her early career, and I’m confident she will continue to seize opportunities that make an impact in every area she graces, from engineering to ice hockey.”

“I’m very passionate about everything I do,” Sharp said. “At APL, it’s hard not to get excited about my work and all the different projects I’m involved with. I also am so dedicated to my educational and professional outreach efforts because I believe in the impact of exposure. This award from DCCEAS spurs me on to continue working hard.”

Sharp was recognized at DCCEAS’ awards banquet in February.