Amanda Mikhail, former IBMer engineer (and holder of dozens of patents) and current Mayo Clinic Unit Manager in
Rochester Magazine: Tell me about one of your recent patents.
Amanda Mikhail: All of my most recent were at IBM. I’m at Mayo now. But one of the most recent was a materials method for high density interconnect. High density interconnect is …
RM: Are you talking about patent number #20080090440? The Socket and Method for Compensating for Differing Coefficients of Thermal Expansion, which includes a method for compensating for a difference in the coefficients of thermal expansion between a socket and a printed circuit board?
AM: Why, yes. Have you been doing your research?
RM: No. I’m just a huge patent fan. Did you also do the Method and Apparatus for Electrically Connecting Two Substrates Using a Resilient Wire.
AM: Bundle …
RM: Right. A Resilient Wire Bundle Captured in an Aperture of an Interposer by a Retention Member?
AM [laughing]: I’m blushing. That’s going to show up in these photos.
RM: True or false, you’re an avid figure skater who regularly competes in high-level competitions for the Rochester Figure Skating Club.
AM: False. I don’t, but I wanted to. I am actually president of the RFSC board right now. My daughter Emily skates. She loves it. It’s a great club.
RM: You were not a figure skater as a child, because you were too busy …
RM: The answer I was looking for was “taking apart a car engine. As a fifth grader.”
AM: How did you hear about that? Yes, I took apart a car engine as a fifth grader. And put it all back together. I can still smell the oil. It makes me happy.
RM: Wow. Are you still a car person?
AM: Oh, yes. I love to test drive cars. The car dealers hate me. When I see one of the salespeople that will recognize me I have to avoid them.
RM: If you could drive any car, what would it be?
AM: The car I drive now. A BMW X3. Do you want me to geek out on you with what I love about it?
RM: Of course I do.
AM: OK. I love the drive. The feel. The low-end torque. The handling. The way it distributes power between the wheels.
RM: What would you shoot if we went golfing right now?
AM: Bogie. That’s what I shot up at Madden’s on Gull Lake over the summer. Did you find in your research that I was the only girl on the boys golf team? It made it really awkward when I was on the bus and the boys were changing into their uniforms. It got me prepared for engineering, I guess. When I was at IBM, it was 95 percent male in my group.
RM: Tell me about your move from IBM to Mayo Clinic.
AM: I was at IBM for 15 years. I loved it. I loved my team. The hardest thing to do was tell my team I was leaving. That was May of ‘14. I went right to Mayo.
RM: Do you like Mayo?
AM: I love Mayo. Love my team. I’m still problem solving. I love leading technical people. I think I’ve always wanted to be at Mayo. I grew up in La Crosse in the shadow of Mayo. I was actually quite sick as a kid. I had a bunch of kidney issues. When I was in kindergarten there was a kid that was at the hospital that I became really close to. I remember the night my mom told me he was too sick to stay, so they were transferring him to Mayo. I remember thinking “He’s going to be okay because he’s going to be at Mayo.” That feeling has always stuck with me.
RM: Wow. Very cool. I know you’ve done a lot of mentoring, especially of young girls looking to get into tech fields.
AM: I love that. I kind of get found by people whose daughters are going into engineering. … Girls who are high school age and are thinking about engineering. Girls in college who are struggling. Women who are early in their career. I want girls to be able to do what I’ve gotten a chance to experience. … We’ve been lucky to be able to give back. My husband and I have an engineering scholarship we’ve given to the University of Iowa [the Amanda and Michael Mikhail Engineering Scholarship]. The scholarship is for women with financial need in engineering. We attend a scholarship luncheon and get to meet them. They are so grateful and so fun.
RM: How did you and Michael [an internal medicine doctor at Mayo] meet?
AM: I was flying out of Rochester in a blizzard. We sat next to each other. We were on the tarmac together for two or three hours. We lived in the same apartment building but never saw each other. But we didn’t start dating until 11 months later when we were both flying back through O’Hare, the Sunday of Thanksgiving. My flight was rerouted. My mom told me she didn’t want me driving in the dark by myself. I said ‘Wait, I see someone I know!’ It was Michael. I literally jumped out in front of him. I asked him if he’d rent a car with me.
RM: So driving in a rental car was your first date?
AM: That sounds worse than it was.
RM: Where did he propose?
AM: The Minneapolis airport. We met at O’Hare, but our rerouted flight went to Minneapolis, so …
RM: In 2004, you ran a 5K in 35:32. A few months later, you cut it down to 29:14. Has that trend continued?
AM: Oh, my. In a few weeks, I am going to run my first 5K since that last one. The Heritage Classic on Sept. 25.
RM: Do you practice in some engineer way?
AM: I use two apps to track my mileage and pace. I am comparing which app is more accurate.
RM: And, before you started training, I’m guessing you studied the best way to train.
AM: Absolutely. That would be the scientific method.
RM: As an engineer, scientifically studying your results, what would you predict your upcoming time to be?
AM [laughing]: 29.02.
RM: OK. We will be following up from the race to see if your hypothesis holds true.
AM: Uh oh.