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Natasha McQuaid, BEngMgt '11

(Materials Engineering) | The science of failure

Engineers are typically pretty good at understanding why things work. But for forensic engineers, the more compelling question is why they don’t.

Does failure start with a cracked pipe or a frayed wire? A missing component or substandard material? Has weather, or human error or poor maintenance played a role?

Those questions keep Natasha McQuaid busy as she manages the materials and metallurgical department at Roar Engineering.

“I lead a team that undertakes forensic engineering and failure analysis on a variety of different products to determine their failure modes and mechanisms,” she explains. “My job is to solve puzzles to determine the reason why everyday components fail or malfunction.”

The company works primarily for insurance firms, providing comprehensive investigations and engineering opinions that are used in legal action.

McQuaid, a 2011 grad, says she loves what she does, but had originally dreamed of being an architect. She discovered engineering through a high school competition aimed at introducing women to the profession.

She won the competition and received a scholarship, so turned her attention to engineering.

“I figured Civil Engineering was basically the science behind architecture,” she says. “But during first year, I discovered materials and realized I loved chemistry more than physics. So long story short, I ended up in Materials Engineering and Management, and loved learning that everything is made of something and the science behind that.”

With Roar since 2015, McQuaid says she’s enjoyed the diversity of forensic work, and the satisfaction of helping the company grow.

Her advice to today’s students:  “Find the thing you are passionate about and follow that. It may take some time to get there, there will twists and turns, but once you figure it out, every day will be enjoyable.”