Write an essay where you tell us about what drives you in your pursuit of your graduate degree.

In graduate school, I am earning a Masters in Mechanical Engineering through researching Controls as it applies to Mechatronics. Controls first clicked for me my third year at UVA in Professor Knospe's Mechanical Systems and Signals class as we studied filters. As a musician, I was enthralled with the idea that, in the same way I can control the way my guitar sounds through filters, I can control the outputs of a mechanical system. My interest grew that summer as Rolls-Royce sent me to Singapore to work on the Manufacturing Technology team for three months. There, not only did I get the opportunity to work internationally on a team comprised of Singaporean, Malaysian, Indian, and British engineers, but I learned how to control a six-axis industrial robot. With this knowledge, I developed a program to automate the removal of milling marks from a fan blade for a civil large body jet engine, in order to remove health concerns for manual operators. Upon returning for my fourth year, I took Professor Knospe's Controls course. Though the design project for that class - designing and making a simple nonlinear system controlled using PID - was unrelated to my senior thesis, at the end of the semester my team was the only team able to demonstrate not only PID, but feedback linearization control. Since graduating, I have been working for Rolls-Royce as a Manufacturing Engineer and have seen firsthand the limits of robotic systems, such as the lack of their ability to work alongside humans. Moreover, my mentors in industry and Professor Knospe have shown me that the ability to solve highly complex problems rests on both highly technical knowledge, which allows them to see problems from a different perspective, and an ability to use that perspective, not to solve the problems, but to empower teams to solve these problems. I was inspired to attend graduate school to grow in these two areas.

David from Indiana
University of California Berkeley