Meet Cilla who wanted to pursue a career in medicine but ended up in engineering.



Cilla Refinaldo Chilengue

Year in program

Second year (final year) - Masters candidate in Reliability Engineering.


Dr. Katrina Groth

Research Interests

Hydrogen fueling stations and pipe failure analysis

Dissertation topic


What drew you to engineering?

As a student at a small school, I could only choose between science, biology, or literature, so I chose biology. Just like most girls in my class, I thought I would study biology and pursue a career in medicine. I know, however, that I can barely stand a wound. As I got closer to my high school graduation, I realized that medicine wouldn’t be the best fit for me. So, I started reevaluating my passions and how I could align them with a career. My dad used to travel a lot and used to share stories about his trip, and I just couldn’t wrap my head around the aerodynamics and calculations needed to put an aircraft in the air while also sustaining its weight. That intrigued me and from that moment, I knew I wanted to work with airplanes. We didn’t have an Aerospace major in my country, so mechanical engineering seemed like the closest I could get to clear out my curiosity.

What made you decide to come to UMD and the ENRE Program?

I am part of the Doyenne Fellowship program which aims to create female leaders with theoretical and technical expertise in Reliability Engineering.  At first, I didn’t know anything about reliability, so I had to do my own research. After reading about the course and the University of Maryland, I realized that reliability is an integral part of our lives that we unconsciously take for granted. In everything we do, we often want to make sure it is reliable, from the phone we buy to the house we live in and even the people we interact with. In the same way, reliability is crucial in everyday life. It is even more relevant in industries and engineering services.

What do you want people to know about Reliability Engineering that they may not know?

That it is a field of study of its own. Whenever I tell people about my major, they are always surprised and confused. Although it is a great opportunity to break the ice and educate them about the matter, it is sad most people have never heard about it. I usually tell them that they can perceive reliability as quality. However, the only difference is that reliability focuses on maintaining quality throughout a predefined cycle. The requirement is no longer just to operate, but to be able to operate for a specified period of time.

A fun fact about you? (Not related to engineering!)

This is a sad fact, but I can't sleep on planes! This is so ironic given my passion for them, but this is also applicable to trains and buses. I always feel every nanosecond of all my long trips.