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Winds of Change

3/23/09

Growing up in the blustery hills of Vermont, Matilda Urie never lost the propulsion toward a career in wind farm development.

Years later, the senior mechanical engineering major is on course to accept a job building the energy-producing turbines in the peaks of Scotland, a full-time position prevailing from a recent co-op assignment at E.ON UK in Coventry, England.

A dream come true for her, one she calls "the perfect job," Urie says she can't say enough about how the combined forces of Northeastern's mechanical engineering program and international co-op made it all happen.

"The experience of working internationally is everything to me now. It's my job. It's my passion," she says. "I can't wait to get back to Scotland to help develop clean, energy-producing turbines-it's the right thing to do to preserve our planet."

In her new position, much like her co-op duties, Urie will search the countryside of the UK for potential wind farm sites, gauging everything from the quality of wind-whether it's constant and reliable for energy production, or just gusty-and putting her myriad engineering skills to use in the hunt. "I'll be taking wind data to locate turbines where they will produce the maximum energy, which uses my fluid dynamics skills. You look, for example, at how the wind will roll over a hill, or where there's mad turbulence caused by a land feature."

When she completed her third and final co-op at E.ON last year, she was in the midst of developing a 19-turbine site just north of Inverness, Scotland. Besides her engineering know-how, she also participated in community outreach, working to make sure people were on board for the project.

"Some people say that wind farms are intrusive," she says. "I say they're majestic and awesome, and I'd be proud to live near one and know that my community was supporting the face of the future."

Matilda Urie's international travels, which include a year stay in Chile before college, are charted on a map that hangs prominently in the living room of her family's home in Vermont. Her parents have put pins on the map to mark the path their daughter has traveled.

She may have roamed far. But her focus has been constant. Prior to her last co-op, she worked for GE in Schenectady, NY, on steam turbines in 2006, and for ScottishWater doing farm feasibility studies in 2007.

"I've always wanted to work with alternative energy, and this is the perfect combination of engineering and politics-it's the perfect job."

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