Are you performing any research?
Yes, with Ramesh Agarwal. Aerodynamics research on active wingtip vortex cancellation in airplanes and in the Computational Fluid Dynamics Lab with Prof. Agarwal; I do aerodynamics research on vortex formation patterns, usually with applications to small drone airplanes (UAVs).
Why did you pick WashU?
My favorite thing about WashU is the wide variety of academic interests at this school. I remember freshman year being so amazed by how many different things people did and all the hidden talents people seemed to have. Even among engineering students, the stereotype of the "single-minded STEM kid from Vulcan" was anything but true — students did everything from horseback riding to math competitions to spelling bees!
Being in an environment like that is really stimulating, and I think it offers a lot of opportunity for personal growth and exploration beyond your comfort zone. Being able to take classes from world-class instructors in nearly any topic of your choosing is such an incredible opportunity, and I think it's my favorite thing about a school as well-rounded as WashU.
What was your favorite course and why?
My favorite course was probably MEMS 5700: Aerodynamics. Growing up, I was always fascinated by airplanes and how they worked, so finally having a course to put equations to all those concepts was really cool!
Who is your favorite instructor and why?
So many to choose from — I can't narrow it down to one! Probably either Guy Genin (for Dynamics II), Martha Hastings (for Engineering Math A & B), or Emily Boyd (for Fluid Dynamics)!
Prof. Genin, because every class with him was so fun! He's such a goofy guy, and he always explained new ideas with really creative and funny examples. It sounds like a little thing, but that teaching style really kept the class interested in the topics and resulted in a great educational experience.
Prof. Hastings, because I've never met someone who can distill complex topics down to simple ideas so effortlessly. I think there's a simplicity and elegance underneath all mathematics, and sometimes it's easy to lose sight of that when you get too far into the weeds. Prof. Hastings always made sure we could relate back to the conceptual big picture. Because of that, we got a great conceptual understanding of the curriculum, way beyond just "plugging in numbers to a formula." Prof. Hastings is, hands down, the best teacher I've had in my entire educational career.
Prof. Boyd, because of all the extracurricular involvement she does for undergraduates. Prof. Boyd has been such an advocate for the mechanical engineering undergraduates, from faculty-advising the American Society of Mechanical Engineers student group to passing on student opinions at faculty meetings. She's also very involved with facilitating undergraduate research on campus through the WUSEF program. I think the best part is that the department doesn't require her to do any of these "extra" things; she does them because she wants to. I think that speaks volumes about the quality, friendliness and accessibility of professors here at WashU.
What advice would you give to a new student?
For engineering students specifically: The number one, hands-down, best thing you can do for yourself is to join a student design team!!! (Three exclamation points is not enough!) I can't stress that enough — you absolutely owe it to yourself to get that kind of hands-on experience! At WashU, there are many options for that depending on your interests: We have an airplane competition team (shameless plug, as I help lead this), a racecar competition team, a solar decathlon team and more. (I'm not 100 percent positive, but I believe we may have a chemical-car team, and at one point I know we had a rocketry team and a robotic mining competition team). Choose whatever team floats your boat and join!
Often times there's no experience required to join, and you'll learn an incredible amount of material. While classes are great, there are some kinds of knowledge (especially in engineering) that you can only learn by doing. The example I like to give is that there's no class that will teach you to leave room around a nut so that you can later grab it with a wrench to tighten, but once you make the mistake of boxing in a nut once, you'll never, ever make it again!
The best part is that you can learn these tips and tricks while having fun and creating something brand new with your friends!
Finally, it's a great way to make connections with your peers and upperclassmen, who will be an invaluable resource throughout your college career. Many upperclassmen will have taken the same courses you have, so they can help you if you have questions about topics from lectures.
What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?
The City Museum!
Do you have any work history?
- SpaceX, intern
- MIT Lincoln Laboratory, intern
- NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, intern
- Paul Mueller Co., intern
- WashU Radiological Chemistry and Imaging Lab (RCIL), lab assistant
What campus activities or groups would you recommend to a new student?
Anything and everything! The most important thing is that you try as many new things as possible. College is a time to really discover who you are and what you like to do, and a school like WashU offers such a wide variety of student groups to explore!
What are your plans for the future?
One of the things I discovered about myself at WashU is a love for research! Because of that, I hope to pursue a PhD in aerospace engineering, focusing on either applied aerodynamics or aerospace controls.