Since graduating from Blair in 2014, Dr. Annika Rollock ’14 has become quite the expert in aerospace engineering after accruing laudable experience as a flight systems engineer at NASA, a design development engineer at Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation, and today, as the Director of Engineering at the Aurelia Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In addition to reviewing her professional experiences, Dr. Rollock will relive her days as a tenacious student and star athlete at Skeptics on Tuesday, November 7.
“I remember high school as being a time when I personally felt a lot of pressure to define myself and figure out what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” started Dr. Rollock in a pre-event interview. “I felt pulled in a lot of different directions, especially after Blair once I got to university, and it felt like there was never enough time in the day to give to all the things that I wanted to do,” she admitted.
“I hope that showing some of my experiences—and more importantly, my struggles and failures— can help younger students feel less alone and that everything will be okay.”
After graduating from Blair, Dr. Rollock went on to obtain her bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering at the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After finishing undergraduate school, Dr. Rollock enrolled at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where she earned not only a master of science degree, also in aerospace engineering, but a doctorate’s degree as well.
As if her days weren’t already busy enough, Dr. Rollock also delegated additional time to gaining professional experiences as both a graduate student researcher, club member, and teaching assistant.
Though her achievements have caused some to characterize her as a modern Wonder Woman, Dr. Rollock admits to having felt overwhelmed. Looking back, she says she has relied on one question to help her overcome life’s difficult moments.
“During really tough situations, whether it be a stressful work environment, a family emergency, or the middle of a really long [running] race, the most helpful approach I’ve found to getting myself through is to think: What can I do about this right now? I find it’s helpful to narrow my focus a bit, to bring the tunnel vision in so I don't get overwhelmed and can actually start working toward a practical solution. And, sometimes the answer is nothing, and that’s okay, too. f you can’t do anything about it, there’s no sense worrying. Of course it’s easier said than done, but I find it’s a useful exercise.”
In addition to speaking on her professional opportunities, Dr. Rollock wants to dedicate the majority of her talk to prioritization and mindfulness—qualities that will hopefully resonate deeply with high schoolers.
“I want to make sure that I speak on the importance of finding fulfillment in different aspects of one’s life, and how one can use varied interests as tools to avoid burnout in an increasingly specialized world.”
“For me, work/life balance has often been defined through my love of endurance sports and my more technical work as an aerospace engineer. The talk will be somewhat introspective, but my goal is to show the lessons I’ve learned and how they can be broadly applicable,” shared Dr. Rollock.
All are welcome to hear Dr. Rollock speak in the forum of the Chiang-Elghanayan Center next Tuesday at 7 p.m.
History of Skeptics
The Society of Skeptics was established as a forum for students and faculty to discuss and debate important global issues; it has grown to become one of the premier high school lecture series in the United States. Each week, speakers from the political, social, scientific, economic and literary arenas share their unique perspectives with students, who are encouraged to engage with presenters, asking questions and debating points of view.
The program, which is funded in part by the Class of 1968 Society of Skeptics Endowment Fund, is an outgrowth of the Blair International Society, begun in 1937. Forty years later, former history department chair Elliott Trommald, PhD, Hon. ’65, established the modern Skeptics program as a regular forum for student discussion and debate; history teacher Martin Miller, PhD, took over in the mid-1980s and molded the program into a weekly lecture series, one that has since continued without interruption. Under the tutelage of Dr. Miller and his successor, history department chair Jason Beck, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are thought-provoking, engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please visit Blair’s website.