Originally, when Elsie decided on the pursuit of engineering she thought she would be an engineer who worked in radio and radio applications. Becoming an electrical engineer seemed the right path to this. But life is a funny thing, and her first job led her work that was mechanical in nature and then on to aviation. Aviation captured her imagination and her electrical engineering skills were very applicable, but she wanted to learn more about aeronautical engineering specifically leading to her studies at the University of Michigan.
At the university she became likely the first woman to complete a masters in aeronautics, which she achieved in 1929. However, the way forward was not an easy one. When she should have been celebrating her achievement, she was battling polio. While she was able to recover a great degree of her mobility, she dealt with the after affects of the disease throughout her life. Despite these challenges, she refused to give in and be labeled or diminished by the disease.