Nathan P Brown

Ph.D.A.E. 2020

What is your next adventure?

I've accepted a position as a physicist with Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico. I’ll be performing experiments with the Z machine, a device that creates one of the highest energy-dense environments in the world. The extreme conditions created by Z enable scientists to study a host of interesting fields, including plasma physics and quantum mechanics. I’ll primarily be using Z to study quantum physics.

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

I am excited to transition from engineering to physics. There are parts of the aerospace engineering program at Tech where we do a lot of math and physics - that's what I really liked. Now I will be doing it all the time. I’m also excited to live in New Mexico – it’ll be nice to be close to in-laws and snowboarding.

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

I don’t have any direct experience in my new area, but I do have plenty of co-op, internship, and research experience. I worked four semesters as a structural and thermal engineer on projects like the James Webb and Space Launch System with ATA Engineering, Inc. I also helped design a novel gridded ion thruster as an intern with L-3. My research at Tech has included ballistic missile defense system optimization, plasma thruster testing, plasma-material interactions, and optical plasma diagnostics. Most importantly, these experiences gave me confidence to explore new areas and taught me how to learn – those attributes will help me most in my new job.

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

My classes provided a firm foundation in science and math, but my most important educational experience was my advisement. Professor Mitchell Walker taught me how to do research: find important questions, design experiments, and disseminate results. But, maybe more importantly, he believed in me and pushed me to achieve more than I thought I could. Much of who I am as a researcher is a direct result of his training.

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

I’ll give you the same advice I gave to my younger brothers, who also attended Tech. [laughs]

Take advantage of all the experiences Georgia Tech provides: work as a co-op or intern, do research, and engage with the world-class professors. If all you ever do is school work, you won’t know what you want to do with your career. My experience in research and industry showed me what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.