Austin Matthews

M.S.A.E. 2021

What is your next adventure?

ight after graduation I’ll move to Denver, Colorado to start working as a test conductor at Ursa Major Technologies. They are a manufacturing company that builds liquid rocket engines.

What about your next adventure are you most looking forward to?

I’m excited to get out there and start working. I've been in school now for a long time, so I'm excited to apply the concepts that I've learned and work more on building real engines that'll really fly.

Did you have any previous co-op, internship, or research experience in this area?

During undergrad I worked at Caterpillar for their fuel systems design department, then later I worked at Tesla as a mechanical engineering intern. 

I more recently interned at Solar Turbines where they make gas turbine engines, so that was where I had my first industry experience with combustion.  

I’ve been conducting graduate research at the Ben T. Zinn Combustion Lab with Professor Tim Lieuwen where I’ve worked on a solar turbine sponsored research project, which game me a lot of crossover experience in between working on solar and gas turbines.

Through working with my research team I’ve worked on making engines more efficient by investigating combustion instabilities that occur in engines. To do so, we built a rig that simulates a portion of a real engine and we run this experimental apparatus at various conditions and use lasers and high-speed cameras and other diagnostic techniques to analyze the combustion dynamics and identify different regions where there's a combustion instability and find out why that's occurring.

How did your educational experience at Georgia Tech help you to achieve your goals?

There’s so much going on at Georgia Tech that it gives you the opportunity to explore what you want to do. There's so many different opportunities and you have to you just look for them.

For me, it was really helpful for to be able to come into Georgia Tech and get my undergraduate education. That's where I figured out the different aspects of mechanical engineering that I was interested in.

During undergrad I was able to do research at the Ben T. Zinn Combustion Lab with the same group for two years, so that really helped me get my foot in the door to figure out what it was all about. Then I was able to move into an actual graduate research position once I started graduate school. After undergrad, more opportunities at Tech allowed me to dive more into combustion.

Professor Lieuwen saw me as an undergrad mechanical engineering student and believed in me enough to bring me on as a graduate research assistant and that’s what drove me to really pursue combustion in my graduate years. Now I’m about to go work for a rocket engine company, so I found it really helpful to go through the broad education and then narrow it down to a specific area of aerospace as I went on. 

What advice would you give to an underclassman who would like to follow the same path?

Try to get involved with extracurricular activities, whether that's joining an automotive, rocket club, or honor society it’s important to explore different hands on opportunities. For me I was more targeted towards joining an automotive club because I got my bachelor’s in mechanical engineering. There's a lot of opportunities in rocket clubs and student organizations like that at Tech.

If you're interested or curious in research, I’d recommend getting involved as early as possible, because for combustion at least there's a high learning curve for entry, you’re dealing with really complex phenomena, so getting in early and seeing what's going on from an undergraduate perspective is super helpful if you hope to transition to more of a graduate role.