Kimberly O. Flesner

Materials Practice Lead,
Stress Engineering Services, Inc.,
Houston, Texas



B.S.E. (Materials & Metallurgical Engineering), University of Michigan, 1984
M.S.E. (Materials Science and Engineering), University of Texas, 1989

Employment history

1984-1989: Metallurgical Engineer, Radian Corporation, Austin, TX: Performed metallurgical failure analyses for the subsidiary of a commercial insurance carrier. Analyzed equipment from the power, pulp & paper, and manufacturing industries. Decided I needed to go to graduate school after my 250th boiler tube failure analysis! 

1989-1999: Managing Engineer, Exponent-Failure Analysis Associates, Houston, TX: Conduct failure analyses and large-scale accident investigations for the chemical, refining, marine, agricultural and dry cleaning industries. Most projects were associated with litigation and expert witness testimony. Testified in both State and Federal Court.

1999-current: Managing Principal and Materials Engineering Practice Lead, Stress Engineering Services, Inc., Houston TX: Continue managing large-scale accident investigations and developing the forensic engineering practice at Stress. Projects have included fire origin and cause investigations, fire damage assessments, root-cause investigation of a capsized Gulf of Mexico production platform, failure of offshore mooring chain, and failure of subsea production equipment. 

Additionally, manage the materials practice at Stress, including both metallurgical and non-metallic staff in 3 different offices with laboratories. Responsible for the growth and financial success of the practice including hiring, daily supervision, laboratory expansion, and work distribution. I also serve on the Stress Engineering Services Board of Directors.

Special Training

Registered Professional Engineer, State of Texas

Honors and Awards

Member, Alumni Association of the University of Michigan Board of Directors, 2014-2020 
Chair, Diversity Committee, Coordinate LEAD scholarship for Alumni Association Board
2017 Distinguished Alumni of the Year, Materials Science & Engineering, College of Engineering, the University of Michigan

How did your MSE degrees prepare you for your career?

My degree – particularly my interaction with the professors – gave me an appreciation and reverence for metallurgy. I’m convinced you have to love your work to be happy in life, and I truly love metallurgy. The professors in the department pushed us to fully understand the basics: casting, rolling, metallography, testing, etc. I can still draw the iron-carbon phase diagram from memory! When I interviewed for my first job, they were surprised and impressed I knew how to polish and etch so many different alloys in addition to recognizing dozens of microstructures (they actually gave me a photo test – I was the only candidate to name all correctly). Additionally, the professors placed a great emphasis on concise report writing and the ability to verbally present the results to a group. That same first job interview required me to give a presentation to the interviewing team. Again, I was the only candidate that was prepared and able to answer questions confidently, all because of my Michigan education. Effective communication is critical to success. No matter how well you do your job, you have to relate that information to others for the work to be recognized. Finally, the professors pushed you to obtain your professional engineer’s license as soon as possible. In most States, it is against the law to practice as an independent or consulting engineer if you do not have the license – we require all our engineers to be registered at Stress. I find a lot of schools do not advocate the importance of registration. So, my advice: get registered as soon as possible, whether your current job requires it or not. You never know what you will do in the future and registration keeps your options open.

What were your favorite classes, events, and/or student organizations?

I loved casting class and working in the foundry. I also enjoyed microstructural evaluation and, of course, failure analysis. I particularly valued the mentoring relationship I had with Dr. Richard Flinn. He is the primary reason I became a metallurgical engineer.

What advice/thoughts do you have for students considering an MSE major?

Materials Engineering is the common thread among all other forms of engineering and industry – whatever another engineer designs, there has to be a material that supports, contains, or transports that design. This diversity gives you a lot of freedom in your career choices. Additionally, embrace the lab classes; you are likely to spend a lot of time in them during your career. The best materials engineers I know are comfortable with laboratories and materials characterization equipment. Finally, get registered!

What do you like to do outside of work?

Cooking, reading, needlework, playing with my German Shepherd Dogs, and all things Michigan. Go Blue!