Alex Ju: the research engineer with an artistic spirit
With only 24-years old, Alex Ju is already an engineer creating breakthrough technology that amazes. The combination of her background in art, jewelry, and human experience with her technical knowledge of materials and digital fabrication are allowing her to explore different uses for 3D at HP.
This is her story.
Artist-engineer: combining the skills
Even though she took a lot of STEM classes because of her parents’ Ph.D.s in electrical engineering, Alex always preferred the art class since she was young.
She graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where she studied fine art and earned a degree in jewelry and metalsmithing.
After finishing her studies, she had a wearable technology internship that was her first exposure to working in the tech industry.
She decided to join HP as an intern attracted by our 3D printing endeavors that provided her with plenty of challenging projects that continue to expand her skills and pique her interests. She ended up doing a lot of stuff with 3D printing and that’s how she ended up in the lab.
What Alex does
On her role as a Research Engineer in the Immersive Experiences Lab at HP’s headquarters in Palo Alto encompasses a broad range of responsibilities across all levels of the organization.
Some days she works directly with lab technicians and R&D associates to come up with programs that will properly showcase a new product’s properties, while on others she experiments with post-processing finishes for HP’s 3D printed products. She spends her days helping HP innovate 3D printing on an industrial scale with the Multi Jet Fusion technology.
There’s an extremely broad variety of experiences and perspectives throughout HP.
But in her spare time, she’s innovating in a different way: by utilizing the same technology as a fertile new medium for art and applying her interests in tactile printing to the realm of jewelry and metal design.
And as it turns out, she’s making some pretty cool things.
From 3D-printed faux fingernails to a 3D-printed skirt she made and wore at Coachella, Alex has discovered that the 3D-printed plastic works really well and have many uses that had not been yet explored.
“People generally are very surprised when they hear I majored in jewelry. But I actually still make quite a bit of it in my job”, she says.
“A lot of the jewelry-making skills I learned translate well to things I do now, like 3D modeling and post-processing.”
And how is a day at the HP Labs?
In her own words, every day at the Lab is pretty different:
I have a lot of freedom to create my own projects, and what I’m doing at any time can really vary. I try to do at least a third to half of my day doing something with my hands.
The other half of her day, she might be writing things, coding things, meeting up with people. In a globally connected company like HP, she has a lot of remote conversing with people around the world.
As a vital part of HP’s Immersive Experiences Lab, which seeks to transform how people communicate and collaborate through new technologies, Ju’s creative acumen makes her an exceptional colleague.
Creating an impact on women
Being a female engineer in a male-dominated field, Alex is always thinking about ways that women can avail 3D-printed technology, which many people in the industry might overlook.
My artistic practices always focus a lot on increasing diversity in technology. My mom was an electrical engineer for many years and even when I was in school before entering the workforce that was something that I was thinking about a lot.
She is also the social events lead of the HP Palo Alto Women Impact Network (WIN), where she helps create a strong community for women within the company.
“It’s been a lot of fun to be part of the founding team for the Palo Alto’s version of the WIN. We have a broader assortment of events, from bringing in speakers to giving workshops and also socials that are a great opportunity to bring together women from different aspects of the company to talk about their experiences”.
A piece of advice…
What would you tell to other women who want to get into 3D printing or work with similar technology?
“The number one thing I would say is there’s no right way to get into technology. When I was growing up, I thought you had to major in engineering to work at a company like HP. But I realized that because I love jewelry, I’m eager to be an expert at it.”, she said.
“I know more because I care more about it. And then I’m able to bring a valuable perspective as well. It’s great to be interested in software engineering, but also, not everyone has to be a software engineer. Do what you’re passionate about!”, she finished.