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College of Engineering and Computing

  • Andrew stands in the McNair Center

Adventures with Andrew #1: A brief introduction

By Abe Danaher | June 7, 2019

This summer, our College of Engineering and Computing Communications team will be following McNair Junior Fellow Andrew Anderson as he progresses through his research on carbon fiber thermoplastics. Every two weeks or so we will sit down with Andrew to discuss advances in his research, challenges he has run into and any little stories that may have popped up in his life. Welcome to our "Adventures with Andrew" summer MJF series, we hope you enjoy!

Let’s start here: Andrew Anderson is not your typical undergraduate student. Maybe you already guessed that after glancing at his full-grown, filled-in beard in the picture above. Or maybe you recognized the wisdom in his eyes that only comes from age and experience. But I can assure you one thing ­– Andrew is a unique student at our college, and it is his differences that are allowing him to excel in the McNair Center.

How many undergraduate students can say that they have played an instrumental role in master’s and doctoral students’ research? How many can say that they ran a company for ten years before getting into their undergraduate research? How many students ­– period – can say they had the opportunity to work at NASA?

We can guess your answers to those questions. Probably not many, right?

Well, I wasn’t kidding when I said Andrew was the real deal! I mean, he’s the operator of the McNair Center’s Automated Fiber Placement machine, which is a machine as big as a house and a position that was previously held by a full-time engineer. It’s also a machine that is at the center of many master’s and doctoral students’ research here at the college and has put Andrew in the position to help them through their research and to play a role in their success.

Helping these students – many of whom are younger than him – overcome challenges in their research is something he really enjoys. He’s the old man in the room, the man with the experience and the man making a difference.

“I have a lot of experience with certain interpersonal skills and engineering aspects and problem solving that some of the younger students ­– they haven’t gotten to that point yet,” he says with a smile.

This summer for the MJF program, though, Andrew will use the AFP machine for his own research to explore the parameters of thermoplastics. For the first two weeks, he will be at NASA helping his mentor, Associate Professor Ramy Harik, conduct research on NASA’s Langley’s AFP machine. When he returns, he will use the remaining 10 weeks of summer to conduct MJF research that he hopes leads to a published journal article.

As for the future, it’s really hard for Andrew to pin down exactly what he wants to do. He still has 14 classes left in his undergraduate studies, and with a trip to NASA just a few days away, he can’t really think beyond that. He does, however, have dreams, and it just so happens that he’s on the right path to achieving them.

“Truthfully, I do want to go into the aerospace industry,” he says, before tampering his expectations slightly. “But my initial goal is just to put one foot in front of the other, get through my degree program, get through the research I’m doing, help the other people do their research and finish my degree.”

Well, that’s a wrap on this first edition of “Adventures with Andrew!” This summer we hope to have you ­– our readers – walking with Andrew step-by-step through his MJF program experience. Do you feel like you know him yet? If not, check back in a few weeks for our newest article and hopefully after reading it, you’ll have a new best friend. If you’re already ready to call him Drew, well, check back too! I mean, who wouldn’t want to hear his reactions after visiting NASA?

Until then, though, peace out from us to you!


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