Engineering & Physics Alumni

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Kevin Halle, Aerospace Engineering

Kevin Halle ('13) is very busy in his new mechanical/aerospace engineering job at Pacifica Engineering (Bothell, WA), where he works as an associate tool design engineer. His job is to design machining, assembly, and inspection tools for the gearboxes of the new Bell 525 Relentless Helicopter using the CAD program CATIA V6, which is very similar to SolidWorks. Here are his comments about his time at NNU:

"My time at NNU helped prepare me for life at work by giving me the opportunities to use my engineering skills in real life situations. The projects that I was able to be involved in helped me to understand how the full engineering process works and helped me prepare for what to expect when I started working full time. The design classes that I took were very helpful in giving me a background in good design practice. The projects allowed me to put those design skills to good use by having a practical application.

I really liked the fact that the professors at NNU always helped us find a practical application for what we learned. It could be as simple as showing us an example or as complex as giving us a large project to demonstrate our skills. Either way, it helped solidify why we are there learning about these different aspects of engineering. I also was very thankful for the time and effort the professors put in to make sure we succeeded.  If something didn't make sense or we needed extra help, the professors were always there to guide us in the right direction and help solidify the information in our minds.  

I do not think I would be where I am today if I had gone to a different school. The many opportunities to learn and use our knowledge allowed me to show my employer that I have what it takes to be a successful engineer. The Christian education and training at NNU helped me to learn to trust God with my future and my job. The job I have was given to me totally by the grace of God. I did not apply for it, God guided me to it, and trusting his guidance led me to this position and it is totally a blessing. My time at NNU helped me to understand the importance of letting God lead and direct my life. I am very thankful.

Thank you NNU faculty for all the hard work you put in to my education and the education of every student you teach!"

Mike Wheatley, Missions

Engineering was always more than equations and simulations to Mike Wheatley. For Mike, an engineering education and background taught him a valuable skill set that he is now able to take into the mission field.

Originally from Monroe, Wash., Mike graduated from Northwest Nazarene University in 2008 with a degree in engineering physics. A local engineering company snatched Mike up shortly after graduating, and for two years Mike dabbled in civil, structural, soils, environmental and transportation engineering projects.

But several short-term mission experiences stirred Mike's heart.  God was working to show Mike that He could use Mike's talents on the mission field as well as in the workforce. During a conversation with a Habitat for Humanity engineer onsite at a project in the Philippines, God showed Mike that He could use engineers even on the mission field. This idea that Mike's talent and passion for helping others could come together was confirmed on another mission trip to Nicaragua.

"As a Christian, the most rewarding job I can do is one where I can share Christ with others.  As an engineer I see that there are a lot of people in the world who don't have access to the same amenities such as clean drinking water, electricity or sanitation systems.  My dream job would be to share Christ and help to meet these physical needs," Mike explains.

Beginning this fall, Mike left the engineering firm that he'd been working with to join Extreme Nazarene in Arequipa, Peru. He serves there as the logistics coordinator organizing transportation, meals, and housing of short-term volunteers to the various sites that Extreme Nazarene has a presence in.

Extreme Nazarene operates in seven cities throughout Peru and there are between six and ten 40/40's in each city. The 40/40's are pairs of North American and Peruvian volunteers whose goal is to plant three churches in two years.  These pairs are supported by cluster families and administrative staff.  Using his ability to see the bigger picture of how things work together, think critically and engineer short-term projects, Mike serves in an administrative roll as Extreme strives to expand the gospel of Christ in Peru.

"Working in the corporate world, I've always viewed myself as a Christian who happens to be an engineer and not an engineer who happens to be a Christian," Mike explains.

Another project that Mike will lead is working with a group of NNU engineering students on their student project.  Starting in 2011, Extreme Nazarene will begin construction of church buildings for new church plants using foam blocks (called Fastblocks) that function like giant Legos.  For a layman crew, using Fastblocks in construction is faster, easier and safer, more cost effective and stronger because they are lighter and able to accommodate steel reinforcements. Using Fastblocks, a new church building can be built in just two weeks.  

A team of NNU students will develop a way these foam blocks can be made onsite-eliminating the time and costs of shipping Fastblocks. These students will travel to Peru summer 2011 to work with Mike and to help construct a chapel of their own. Next year, this group of three students will work long and hard on their senior projects to design a machine that can produce the Fastblocks onsite.

"As a graduate of NNU, it excites me that I get to work with students from my alma mater. The results of this project have the potential to affect world missions around the world and function as a stepping stone to future NNU engineering mission projects."

John Watson, Nanotechnology

NNU alumnus John Watson ('08) is currently working towards his doctorate at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. While there he is also assisting with research at the Birck Nanotechnology Center. Read more about what all this entails below.

Q: What are you getting your doctorate in at Purdue?

A: I'm working on a doctorate in physics, specializing in experimental condensed matter physics, which is the branch of physics that forms the fundamental basis of much of materials science, electrical engineering and nanotechnology.

Q: Can you please give me a brief description of your research at the nanotechnology center?

A: My research is in crystal growth using a technique called molecular beam epitaxy and subsequently making very low-temperature electrical measurements on the crystals. The crystals we grow consist of alternating layers of extremely pure semiconductors that we use to form a two-dimensional sheet of electrons. Then the experiments we conduct at low temperature are used to study what is called the collective behavior of the electrons (kind of like watching how a bunch of people do the wave at a football game). Our long-term goal is to gain a better understanding of these electron systems and apply this understanding to the emerging field of quantum computing.

Q: How do you feel NNU prepared you for what you're doing at Purdue?

A: I think there are two ways NNU prepared me for graduate school.  First, I am really grateful for the well-rounded background I got at NNU. Grad school can be a very demanding atmosphere, and the Christ-centered education I got at NNU has been valuable in keeping the bigger picture in mind through all the ups-and-downs of day-to-day research. Second, the training I got in the engineering and physics department at NNU was world class. I was kind of nervous when I started at Purdue because I wasn't sure how I would stack up with all my peers from around the world, but I have found that the courses and labs I had at NNU gave me the skills I need to succeed in a modern research lab.

Q: What are your plans for after you finish at Purdue?

A: Well, at this point I don't have any specific plans; I will just have to wait and see what doors the Lord opens for me. At this point, though, I have to say working in the lab is a lot of fun, so working as a professional researcher sounds pretty exciting.