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Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Rebecca C. Rozakis ’05

Distribution Coordinator, Traveling Programs, American Museum of Natural History

When I was an undergraduate, I studied mechanical and aerospace engineering with a certificate in robotics and intelligent systems. I’d always liked science, with its ever-expanding horizons, but never felt particularly drawn to research. Instead, I wanted to do something more hands-on, where the problems were of the “just make it work” variety and the results were tangible and immediate. Engineering appealed to my practical sense, promising a lot of problems that needed creative solutions. 

These days, fluid mechanics and thermodynamics are stored on some dusty shelf in the back of my brain. The problem-solving skills, though, get a daily workout. I’m the distribution coordinator for traveling programs at the American Museum of Natural History. My department, Global Business Development, is responsible for disseminating museum content outside our doors—everything from licensing the space shows to other planetariums to publishing books by our curators. 

Global coordination, universal skills

The bulk of my time, however, is spent on our traveling exhibitions. The museum creates two 7,000-square-foot exhibitions a year, which are displayed in New York for several months. After that, they go on a worldwide tour—and that’s where we come in. We find host venues, pack the exhibits up, and ship them around the world. Right now we have content being shown from Boston to San Francisco, Italy to Japan. Last I checked, we were installing or deinstalling a show somewhere in the world every 17 days. Our exhibits range in topics from climate change (which Professor Michael Oppenheimer from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs helped curate) to the Silk Road.

I work on the sales team, which is responsible for finding partners and venues. I’m in charge of our marketing (creating brochures and walk-through videos, attending conferences, coordinating Web efforts and mailings, and so on) and a lot of our fiscal planning. I also run collaborator meetings—we typically work with several other institutions to create these exhibits and space shows, and I coordinate a lot of the communication between our collaborators and the staff here at the museum.

The problem-solving and data-analysis skills I learned in mechanical and aerospace engineering have been priceless. A working understanding of how to program in Excel has turned out to be a lot more useful than I ever expected as well. But a lot of the skills I use every day came less from a specific course of study than from my general Princeton experience. Working with people from different backgrounds, communicating clearly, and even turning a problem around to look at it from an unusual angle are all skills that Princeton teaches, in any major.