Frequently Asked Career Questions
- What type of opportunities does Mainstream provide for candidates at the following levels: bachelor's, master's, or doctoral?
At Mainstream, we seek solutions through advanced technology. We offer numerous opportunities for bachelor's, master's, and doctoral-level engineers to gain first-hand experience in R&D in some of the following projects: thermal management systems that provide active cooling for avionics; biomass flash pyrolysis, to minimize the environmental impact of waste (such during a military deployment or in an agricultural zone); fuel delivery for small, unmanned aerial vehicles and internal combustion engines; high-speed rotating machinery used for power production in avionics pods, renewable energy sources; cryocoolers; and nanotechnology.
- What opportunities exist for interns and co-ops? In these positions, will students gain experience in research and development?
Mainstream hires dozens of summer interns and co-op students, some of whom are now employed as full-time engineers. Under the direct supervision of an engineer, these students gain valuable hands-on experience as members of an R & D team. At the end of their work period, they make a final presentation to the engineering department at Mainstream. Interns at Mainstream have created entire test rigs (e.g., seal test stand for a magnetic bearing water pump), performed extensive experimental testing (e.g., completed test matrix on hand-held water purification pumps for cockpit survival kits), and designed cutting edge devices (e.g., microfluidic device that uses electromagnetic fields to move fluid droplets without moving parts).
- What are the advantages of working at a small, private company like Mainstream as opposed to a multinational corporation? That is, what is unique about your organization?
All corporations have a unique culture. Mainstream focuses on R & D and manufacturing. We do not aspire to do business like the multinational, public companies. We recruit top engineers who want to pursue R & D - see a concept develop from the drawing board through the various levels of Technology Readiness. To be successful, employees need to be dedicated, innovative, and imaginative. They must keep up with new technology and research in their fields. They do not advance to become managers but instead to head up other R & D projects.
But R & D is not for everyone. You have to like the laboratory setting. Some days will be filled with rigorous calibrations and documentation, what might be considered "mundane" or even "tedious." But other days may be characterized by a breakthrough or an innovation. Given that we do have an R & D emphasis, we also devote approximately 5 percent of our time to writing proposals.
- What is a typical career path?
Entry-level engineers are assigned to projects and typically work in small teams to complete R & D projects. They work closely with a mentor in writing reports and eventually proposals that reflect their research interest. They will progress to become a senior R&D engineer with an advanced degree and will run multiple R&D programs. Mainstream pays graduate school tuition.
- What are the initial assignments for a first-year engineer or scientist? What are the research, publication, and proposal expectations?
Entry-level engineers work on existing projects and are typically rotated through a wide variety of technology areas. They can be responsible for research, design, computational analysis, prototyping, testing, and product development. While they may jump into a project in mid-stream, they will eventually be exposed to all stages of development. We encourage them to write their own proposals and make conference presentations, or publish their research. We also provide technological and editorial expertise to assist them in these endeavors.
- How competitive are the salaries and benefits at Mainstream?
Mainstream offers competitive benefits: vacation, holiday, and personal leave, 401k, plus company matching, comp time, principal investigator incentives, relocation reimbursement, etc. We pay 100 percent of the healthcare costs for all employees. Our coverage includes medical as well as dental, vision, and life insurance.
- What specific opportunities exist in terms of professional development?
Mainstream offers full tuition reimbursement for advanced engineering degrees (master's and doctoral levels) as well as post-doc coursework. Mainstream also offers support for the Professional Engineering certification. We hold numerous "lunch-and-learn" seminars. They receive on- and off-site, hands-on technical training through seminars or professional development workshops. An internal peer review system and editorial support also help new employees hone their writing skills for reports and proposals
- Do first-year mentoring programs exist?
Currently, entry-level engineers are mentored by the principal investigators (P.I.) for whom they work. P.I.s not only guide their work through technical hurdles but help them with day-to-day activities and business practices. An engineering resource manager ensures that they get exposure to multiple projects, and technology leaders review their work and assist with goal setting and professional growth.
- What skills can a student or candidate develop to improve chances of getting a job at Mainstream?
Successful candidates will have solid fundamentals in science and engineering, and will have exhibited strong performance in both core and in-major coursework. These candidates will also show creativity, flexibility, and independence in critical thinking. These skills ensure they can resolve the increasing complexity of problems and adapt to changing technology.
- What specific skills and qualifications do you seek in candidates?
Successful candidates will usually have a strong academic record in both core and in-major coursework.
They will also have multiple semesters of summer internships, co-ops, or undergraduate research that encourage creative solutions and self-reliance, particularly in hands-on laboratory settings.