What is your next adventure?
I'll be starting a job at Sandia National Labs in Livermore, California in their Gas Physics Group as an electro mechanical technologist. I'm fortunate that my current research was able to ramp down gradually when COVID 19 struck, because we were in the middle of a data campaign. Our research group is pretty close so we've been doing a lot of check-in meetings online, where it was nice to see each other as we moved through the semester.
What about your next adventure are you most looking forward to?
I am excited to branch out in my research. When I interviewed at Sandia, I got to tour their lab space, see their equipment and their test benches. I'm excited to see what I can do with those resources and to see how they can teach me more about small scale reactions in chemistry.
Did you have any previous co-op, internship, or research experience in this area?
During my third year, I applied for an undergraduate research position at the Ben T. Zinn Combustion Lab. After a semester there, I realized that combustion was a field I wanted to pursue. Also, as an undergraduate and even now, I love hands-on aspect of experimental research. Set-ups were maintained by the undergraduate and graduate researchers, and, for me, that was a big stress-reliever. After the pressure of classes and tests, it was nice to just come in and forget about academics for a while. We have a half-ton experimental test bed - a pressure vessel that models conditions inside an aircraft engine. I's really cool because we have a quartz window that gives you visual access. As a grad student I did a joint data campaign with Professor Steinberg and Professor Lieuwen that focused on laser diagnostics. To be able to work with them both, with their expertise, was great.
How did your educational experience at Georgia Tech help you to achieve your goals?
I really appreciate the fact that Tech focuses on the engineering aspects of learning. There are a number of resources available to students so they can experiment on their own. There's also a breadth of engineering knowledge, so, while I got my undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering, I was exposed students and faculty who were into robotics, electronics, combustion, propulsion...I collaborated with smart people from such different backgrounds. It helps you to figure out what area you really want to pursue.
What advice would you give to an underclassman who would like to follow the same path?
I would say take advantage of the research opportunities and don't pigeon-hole yourself into a role because that's where you started out. I started out as an undergraduate thinking I would study biomedical engineering. Then I talked to people in the major and I took a cellular biology class. That's when I realized that I wasn't as interested in the biology aspect of it as I was in the engineering aspect. And, at Tech, there's so many fields of engineering you can choose, so you really shouldn't limit yourself.
The other thing I would say, especially in the time since COVID became an issue: don't isolate. Reach out to other students who are also doing what you are doing. When you are around others, it's more likely you'll step out of your comfort zone, and that's where you'll learn the most