Jenni Elion On-Line

The Quick Bio

I was born in Pittsburgh, PA. When I was about three years old, our family moved to Bethel Park, a suburb about 11 miles south of downtown. I attended Hillcrest Elementary, Independence Middle School, Park Avenue (freshman only), and graduated from Bethel Park Senior High School in 1983. I attended Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA, and graduated in 1987 with a Bachelor's degree in Materials Engineering. From 1987 to 1993, I was an engineer in the Materials & Processes Department of General Dynamics Space Systems in San Diego, CA. In 1993, I came to Research Triangle Institute. Most of my work supports the Air Pollution Control Technolgies Verification Center, one of six centers in EPA's Environmental Technology Verification Program.

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Jenni: The Lighter Side

Despite my technical nature, I've always loved the performing arts. I love the opportunity to get involved with community theater. Growing up, I was active in Stage 62 in Pittsburgh. I was in a few shows and I did a lot of technical stuff: set construction and painting, ushering, and house manager. I take tap and jazz lessons at Susan Byrd's Dance Creations and I love to sing.
Click here to see my theater résumé.
Check out Playbill On-Line to find out what's happening on the Great White Way!

My passion for the performing arts extends to the silver screen. I love the movies of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable, Frank Capra, and Alfred Hitchcock! Being the movie buff that I am, I really enjoy the outdoor movies they show at the North Carolina Museum of Art. You bring lawn chairs, picnic baskets, wine, and spread out and enjoy the show. Don't forget the bug spray!

I volunteer at WCPE. The station is entirely listener-supported and provides Great Classical Music 7 days a week around the clock. Mostly I stuff envelopes for the various mailings, but I also take pledges during the fundraising drives, and I publish the volunteer newsletter.

I also volunteer at SAFE Haven for Cats, Raleigh's only no-kill shelter for stray, abandoned, injured, orphaned, and feral cats and kittens. I took in a foster cat in 2002 that was too shy to be a good candidate for adoption. From there my involvement escalated from contributing money to volunteering my time. I enjoy playing with the cats (some more than others) after we've finished our cleaning duties. Outside opportunities include making catnip mice (proceeds from the sales benefit the shelter) and holiday gift-wrapping. And it looks like I may be getting another foster.

For several years I volunteered at Exploris in downtown Raleigh. I had been looking to do something like this for a while, so the timing was perfect. I do two 4-hour shifts a month in the Living in Balance exhibit. It's billed as the world's first global experience center. It's hard to describe, but if you've ever been to one of those hands-on science centers, this place is kind of a hands-on social studies center. The folks are great and very receptive to volunteer ideas. I recently put together the information for a display on Fuel Prices Around the World. Check it out and see how you compare with the rest of the world!

I'm pretty nasty in the mornings until I've read the comics. I need my funnies the way every one else I work with needs coffee. Right now, my favorite jump starts are Non Sequitur, Fox Trot, Shoe, and Baby Blues. I've fallen for Earl and Mooch, those lovable critters of Mutts. I also love the menagerie that inhabit the world of Kevin & Kell. It's only published on the Internet. Kevin is this rabbit and he met Kell on-line and when they met, in person so to speak, she turned out to be a wolf. They got married and their family includes her son Rudy, who's dating Fiona Fennec, a foxy fox; his adopted daughter Lindesfarne, who thought she was an American porcupine but recently discovered she's an English hedgehog and who is dating Fenton the bat; and little Coney, who looks like her father but has her mother's carnivorous appetite. Oh, just go click on the link and find out for yourself...
Dilbert strikes pretty close to home — we think Scott Adams is working here under a phony name! I very much miss Calvin and Hobbes (a moment of silence, if you please) and The Far Side.

I don't really follow sports, but I do enjoy the minor-league baseball games of the Durham Bulls. The ballpark is nice and it costs about the same as a movie. I went to about six Padres games in San Diego. By some strange coincidence, I have three Padres beachtowels, a Padres T-shirt, and saw two incredible fireworks shows. My sport of choice is football. I like to see my beloved Virginia Tech Hokies whip the Pitt Panthers. Terrible Towel in hand, I cheer on my Pittsburgh Steelers. And every Super Bowl Sunday, I'm parked in front of the TV so I don't miss a commercial!

I joined the San Diego Zoo in 1988 and even though I'm now 3000 miles away, I still keep renewing my membership. I used to stop by after work and watch the antics of the meerkats. I've been a meerkat fan ever since the Smithsonian magazine had an article about them in their April 1986 issue. For $50, you can adopt a meerkat from Fellow Earthlings and provide food, shelter, and vet care for these cute buggers!

I love rollercoasters! I've been on rollercoasters all over the country but my favorites are still the three woodies at Kennywood Park: Thunderbolt, Jackrabbit, and Racer. Maybe because I grew up there -- they always say you never forget your first time!

When I moved out on my own, it seemed like something was lacking from my life. It took me a while to figure it out but I finally realized I missed the familiar yellow of a National Geographic gracing the coffee table every month. I've been subscribing since January 1988 and I pretty much read every issue cover to cover.

I recently donated my matchbook collection to the Smithsonian Institution. Click here to read all about it. Next time you're in Washington, DC, drop by the nation's attic and take a look!

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Jenni Cleans Up Her Act

Research Triangle Institute does contract research and development for commercial and government clients. As an engineer in RTI's Surface Cleaning Program, I am responsible for tasks pertaining to precision cleaning of surfaces, including design of experiments, execution of laboratory investigations, analysis of data, and production of final reports. I lead projects to eliminate solvent usage through process development and support contamination control and clean manufacturing efforts. I also help develop environmental information expert systems, such as SAGE and CAGE.

In 1999, I spent several months working on a garment testing program we did for the military. We have a wind tunnel and we use a benign aerosol powder laced with a flourescent tracer to mimic the behavior of chemical and biological agents (as in "warfare"). We use human test subjects and they wear the garments in the wind tunnel. They do a 30-minute motion routine, kind of a light aerobics thing, to simulate use in the field. At the end of the test, we take the garments off and look at the people under black light to see where the fluorescent tracer got through. We also take swab samples from all over the body to measure fluorescence with a fluorometer that can detect much lower levels than the human eye. After crunching the numbers, we can tell how much of the aerosol actually penetrates to the skin. The program is used to help the military design and evaluate protective garments.

I was also on the planning committee for our annual Environmental Sciences and Engineering (ESE) Awards Banquet. Ordinarily this would not be that big a deal, but the person in marketing who got the stuff we gave away as door prizes moved on, and we were asked to each come up with two prizes. Well, I got a little carried away. All in all, I brought in about $1100 worth of donated goodies to be given away at the banquet. The bad news is, I may have done such a good job that I could find myself permanently assigned to the banquet committee. If that happens, well, I can safely say we won't be having a Titanic theme next year either!

I really enjoy my job. I get to play with expensive "toys" in the lab and I also get to continually develop my software skills. For example, my boss is encouraging me to do this — on my own time, of course — so she can then assign me tasks relating to our Surface Cleaning website. For me, the best perks are publishing and presenting the work that we do! So far, I've presented at conferences in Chicago, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

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Jenni: Space Cadette

As Coordinator of the Composites Processing Laboratory at General Dynamics Space Systems, I was responsible for scheduling tasks required to support both the Atlas and Titan/Centaur programs and research and development work. Under my (very able) direction, the Composites Processing Laboratory successfully demonstrated the feasibility and quality of standard repair procedures for production use. The lab also prepared several panels with specific defects for use as test standards for non-destrucitve test methods, such as C-scan or thermography. As part of research and development, the lab filament-wound tanks and cylinders from commercial fiber and resins developed in the lab. The filament winder was also used to produce prepreg tape and pultruded rods. Research on resin development explored in-situ curing exploiting ultraviolet light or electron beam radiation, with the goal of producing a large composite structure that did not have to be cured in an autoclave or oven. The lab also routinely performed Quality Assurance testing of paste and film adhesives. The adhesives used on the Atlas and Titan/Centaur programs were used for bonding, sealing, and potting in environments ranging from -423 °F to +500 °F.

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Jenni Does Heavy Metal

I put myself through college by working as a co-op student at LTV Steel in Canton, OH. I alternated quarters as a full-time student at Virginia Tech and a full-time intern at LTV. My first quarter I was assigned to the rolling mill, where I collected data on surface decarburization and studied effects of surface cleanliness on NDT techniques. The next quarter I analyzed customer claims to determine validity. As part of another assignment, I established minimum standards based on statistical analyses for grade specifications.

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More of Jenni's Favorite Links!

Fun Stuff

Television and Movies

News and Information

Radio and Television Stations


Public Art on Parade

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My Favorite Science Centers

I have a soft spot in my heart for science centers. I like pushing the buttons, spinning the wheels, whispering in the parabolic dishes, stacking blocks into tall buildings and subjecting them to mock "earthquakes". One of my all-time favorite exhibits was on weather forecasting at the Kirkpatrick Center. There was a mock studio and I recognized the blue screen. I ran over to it and saw myself on a monitor, with weather maps projected on the blue screen behind me. I had fun as I "indicated" fronts moving in and storms developing off the coast! These are some of my favorites around the country.

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