University of California Davis
M.S. in Mechanical Engineering, September 2013
B.S. in Engineering Physics, Aerospace concentration, January 2009
2013 NASA Glenn Aeronautics Academy:
Operations & Logistic Manager
Hometown: Jamestown, NY
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs – ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman
A mentor of mine at NASA shared this quote with me a number of years ago, and ever since it has inspired and challenged me. I am most alive when I am learning about universe, inventing, and gazing at the stars, a curiosity that took root when I first attended Space Camp in sixth grade. Yet, to neglect the needs of the world in pursuit of knowledge or success I believe is to miss the point. As an engineer, I am equally excited by the prospect of applying knowledge and engaging people of diverse ideas and cultures to create new technologies and improve lives.
The numerous spin-off applications that space technology has on people’s everyday lives are what inspire me to be a researcher, innovator, entrepreneur, and volunteer. When I am not pursuing research, I volunteer at homeless shelters, travel overseas on engineering service trips, and for one year I taught high school math and physics to students in rural Rwanda.
Education and Experience
My bachelor’s degree in Engineering Physics provided a fundamental understanding of how the world works while my master’s degree developed the hands-on mechanical engineering skill set. At Case Western I performed electrochemical research on PEM fuel cells and after graduating with my bachelor’s degree in 2009 I joined a start-up company pursuing research and product development and of a direct carbon fuel cell for converting biomass into electricity. My prior research with NASA Glenn included two propulsion projects: a genetic algorithm that optimized the design of bleed-air through a hypersonic jet engine with Dr. Meng-Sing Liou and the modeling and fatigue analysis of a reed valve in a pulsed combustion engine with Dr. Daniel Paxon.
My master’s thesis is an experimental parametric study of a low-cost hydroelectric turbine, which highlights mechanical design and fatigue analysis, manufacturability, statistical analysis for optimization, dynamics, fluid mechanics and a touch of power electronics. With a team of three undergraduates under my supervision, I witnessed the entire engineering process, from literature review and theory to conception, design, CAD, fabrication, assembly, instrumentation, testing and analysis. We have been able to significantly reduce the turbine cost ($/kW) for small, less than 5 kW systems, while still maintaining high efficiency.
Abroad I have helped design, draft and install a battery-grid-tie system in the Dominica Republic, a water/wastewater system for a hospital in Nigeria, and a homemade high-efficiency hydroelectric system in Rwanda. In 2012 I completed the University of California Entrepreneurship Academy and was awarded a grant to connect and empower villagers in Rwanda’s mountainous countryside to start small hydroelectric businesses.
Hobbies and Interests
I love the outdoors, especially biking, rock climbing, and backpacking and I am a trained white water rafting guide. Musically, I play guitar and have sung for as long as I can remember, including the university choirs at Case Western and UC Davis. At Case Western I held officer positions with Engineers Without Borders and Campus Crusade for Christ, and I rowed for the Case Crew team. At UC Davis I was a project mentor for a student team at the UC Davis D-Lab, a program that fosters development of appropriate and sustainable technologies for international development. Obtaining my pilot’s license and completing a triathlon are next on my list!
My long term goal is to work in the aerospace or energy sector on power and propulsion research. I am particularly interested in energy harvesting technologies (vibrations, waste heat, solar, hydrokinetic) and electric propulsion. I would like to find spin-off applications of these technologies and bring them to the market.