Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

Thayer Notes

1940s

Jim Rudolph ’47 Th’48: Since graduating from Thayer in 1948, I made my career as an international art dealer, working with museums, galleries, artists, and collectors all over the world. Thirty-four years ago, HarperCollins published my book, Make Your Own Working Paper Clock, which includes160 pieces that you glue together to produce a wall clock that functions perfectly, goes “tick-tock,” and can be adjusted to go faster or slower. It has never been out of print and has sold almost 300,000 copies. The back story: When I was a graduate student at the Sorbonne, I wandered into a used bookstore one day to find a copy of a book called Paper Clock. I bought it and spent the next two weeks building the clock. I thought it was the most spectacular gift I had ever seen. I returned to the store to buy one for everyone I knew. The owner explained that it was now out of print, but he had the last three copies. I bought all three immediately. I kept them all—until 20 years later, I read in The New York Times a book review about a cut-up-and-paste book called Build Your Own Empire State Building. I figured if they could do that on a project that just entailed gluing a few paper boxes together, somebody ought to see my clock book. That’s how it became a book in this country. I wasn’t nearly smart enough to have invented the clock, but I was just smart enough to have recognized the book’s potential. Harper & Row spent many months hiring patent attorneys and trademark experts in France to ensure we weren’t infringing on the inventor’s rights. When nothing showed up, I said to Harper that there’s one sure way to find out if the creator is still alive: Publish the book. And they did. 

1950s

Ron Read ’57 Th’58: I had the honor of being invited to teach a three-day technical management leadership class at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., last May. We had scientists and engineers from two JPL space programs attend. One group is working on the Wide Field InfraRed Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in 2024. It will have a field of view 100 times greater than the Hubble Telescope and will measure light from more than a billion galaxies. The other is the Exoplanet Exploration Program (an exoplanet is any planet that does not orbit Earth’s sun). The program goal is to search more than 40 billion Earth-sized planets orbiting the habitable zone of sun-like stars within the Milky Way galaxy for signs of oxygen and water. This is pretty exciting science, and it was great fun to work with and learn about their projects. Needless to say, they were a very high-powered and motivated group of engineers! 

1960s

Mark Samuel Tuttle ’65, Th’66: I am involved in startups that usually have to do with data in healthcare—at the rate of about one per quarter. I get to learn something new from each one. I’m also working on my own software development, with the very pretentious name, Re-inventing Statistics Assuming Unbounded Computing Resources. I also mentor wannabe data scientists from Dartmouth and elsewhere.

1970s 

Bob Jackson ’75: I am now officially retired from both my Navy and civilian careers, happily living in San Diego with my wife of 30 years, Bobbi. Several years ago, I retired from the Navy as a captain in the Civil Engineer Corps, where my responsibilities peaked as the commodore of the First Naval Construction Regiment, responsible for all Pacific-based Seabees (approximately 4,000 Seabees and 23 units) during Operation Iraqi Freedom. On the civilian side, I retired from Sempra Energy as the general manager and director of engineering and construction, with the construction of the $1.8-billion Sunrise Powerlink 230kV-500kV transmission line—the largest project for which I was given responsibility.

Bob Jackson
Courtesy of Bob Jackson.

Now, I am having lots of fun with my three young grandkids, with a fourth on the way. My five boys are doing well, some of whom are in San Diego and some in Illinois. My oldest made a radical career change out of engineering and construction management to law enforcement and is now a sergeant with the Illinois State Police. It has been several years since I have been back to Hanover. I probably would not recognize it with all the new construction. I am shooting for 2025 to attend our 50th reunion. It is hard to come to grips with the reality that so much time has elapsed since my undergraduate days! 

1990s

Malik Mamdani Th’92: Since graduating from Thayer, I have started my own software and analytics companies. Most recently, I launched a data-and-analytics service offering at Armeta Analytics (armeta.com) to help retailers and product companies make data-driven decisions. When I’m not running my business or running our three kids to their activities, we’re in hot pursuit of the best tacos and gelato in town. 

2000s

Brian Mason ’03 Th’04 Th’05: The Masons are staying plenty active in California. The family works hard during the week, and we do our best to play hard during the weekend.


Courtesy of Brian Mason.

I am still at the wearable breast pump startup Willow Pump (and was excited to host Thayer Trek students in December). Jocelyn ’05 is teaching Spanish, and Lynn, 7, is in first-grade Spanish immersion at the local elementary school. Peter, 4, and Andrew, 1, never stop moving, and the entire family loves to do LEGOS, wrestle, and draw. Just this last weekend, we built a “cottage” in the backyard with a converted sandbox and some old grapevine stakes, with Peter being the “boss man.” We look forward to the rain soon to quench the earth and fires, slow things down, and give us some powder up in Tahoe. Miss you, Thayer! 

2010s

Max Fagin Th’11: I’m still working at Made In Space (madeinspace.us), where I like knowing that what I’m doing is helping humanity become an interplanetary species. There, I have two mottoes on my desk. One is the standard engineering mantra, “What have you forgotten?” The other is a modified version of the quote from NASA’s flight director Gene Kranz: “Tough and competent, and with proper deference to those who are more so than you.” 

Sharang Biswas ’12 Th’13: My role-playing game, Feast, won another award this summer. It was named “Most Innovative Game” at the Indi Game Developer Network’s Groundbreaker Awards. [Read more about this project in the Fall 2017 issue of Dartmouth Engineer.] My game Verdure was part of the Rules to Play By exhibition in St. Louis, Mo., also this summer. And, in one of my proudest moments, I got to teach a class at Dartmouth! Professor Mary Flanagan invited me to give a guest lecture for her game design class—the very class I took with her my freshman year! The icing on the cake was a student who emailed me after the class telling me how much they enjoyed it! I also recently finished teaching my first full, university-level course, Art and Interactivity: A Call and Response, to second-year photography MFA students at the International Center of Photography. I still love collaborating with other alums. Max Seidman ’12 and I were commissioned to design one of the game modules for “Save the Munba,” a piece of immersive and interactive theater that showed in Boston this fall. I also worked with Nick O’Leary ’14 and Rebecca Drapkin ’13 on a performance game about cyberpunk-esque hackers that uses dancing as a game mechanic, performed at the NEON show in Brooklyn in November. 

Drew Wong ’12 Th’14: I’m currently finishing up my PhD in applied physics at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and am looking around for what comes next, including possibly starting up a battery company through my research.

Evan Landau ’15: This August, I began an industrial design MFA at Parsons School of Design in New York City. My interest in the field was definitely set into motion by Professor Peter Robbie. So far, I’ve created an urban compost tumbler and an ad-hoc disaster relief solution for homeless individuals and their pets in the city. The urban compost tumbler (dubbed “Tabletop Tumbler”) is a compact receptacle for city dwellers that helps them compost and sustainably contain food waste without odor or mess. The inspiration came from two independent research initiatives I took part in this summer interviewing homeless individuals for two nonprofits. The found-materials schematics for a dog shelter crate was part of a larger system design of using public indoor spaces for temporary pet-owner shelters during states of emergency due to natural disaster. I am now working on a coffee machine for an I.D. competition hosted by the Philadelphia Museum of Design & Dieter Rams. (I have lots more images and products at evantlandau.com.)

Evan Landau
Courtesy of Evan Landau.

The human-centered design principles I learned at Thayer loudly echoed in my career throughout the past three-plus years. My time working as a strategic consultant and qualitative researcher at my previous job and most recently in research projects on homelessness has given me a valuable level of insight into how people think and behave that can’t be taught in a textbook. Living in New York City is a great source of inspiration for design. In a city with so many people up to something, and not a whole lot of space, on almost every block you can find some sort of makeshift solution or compensatory behavior. My favorite is when people co-opt the city’s infrastructure to turn public domain into private amenity. This might be using a pizza box as a clipboard, making a perch for people-watching out of a building’s stand pipe, or setting up the lamppost municipal boxes as mini galleries for street art. I’ve seen that there is definitely an art to industrial design, but the end result is not a piece of art; it’s something that must serve a real purpose to a human being. It’s sometimes easy to lose sight of that, and to me, doing a “good job” refers to producing something that others can appreciate and build upon. 

George Boateng ’16 Th’17: I started my PhD at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, in July and I’m working on a project on emotion recognition to be used in couples’ management of diabetes. Also, my nonprofit successfully ran the fifth edition of our summer program, Project iSWEST. [Read more about this project in the Spring 2018 issue of Dartmouth Engineer.] We had some interesting projects by the students, and one of the participants is actually a Dartmouth ’22 who is interested in computer science and engineering. And I finished a fellowship piloting my nonprofit’s new program, SuaCode, to teach students to code using their smartphones.

Mackenzie Carlson ’17: I just started my PhD in bioengineering at Stanford this fall, after taking a gap year to work in an MRI lab at the University of Virginia. There, I worked in the hyper-polarized gas lab, where I used polarizing machines to get xenon gas, which basically allowed us to take pictures of people’s lungs when they inhaled the gas and held their breath.

Mackenzie Carlson
Courtesy of Mackenzie Carlson

For my PhD, I’m focusing on MRI, and there are lots of areas to specialize in even within just MRI. My program has students rotate—spend one academic term in a different lab each term of our first year, so I’ll get to try out three labs this year—so I’m not sure what, exactly, my focus will be beyond that. It will likely be hardware (gradient/shim array) prototyping for high-magnetic fields (6 to 7 tesla) with applications to brain imaging.

Johnny Sigman
Courtesy of Johnny Sigman.

Johnny Sigman Th’17: After getting my PhD at Thayer in 2017, I took a postdoctoral researcher position with Lawrence Carin’s machine learning/AI group at Duke University. My project is building automatic detection of threats in carry-on luggage at airport checkpoints using deep neural networks. This product will go live this summer and be in airports nationwide soon. I’m leading a team made of myself and two graduate students, and we collaborate with the two companies that make X-ray scanners at airport security checkpoints. Duke is the lead on the project, and our role is to develop and advise all aspects of machine learning and neural networks. Our algorithms learn from labeled X-rays (knives, guns, and other prohibited items), and then detect and show the location of any threats in your luggage when you pass through a checkpoint.

Thomas Cornew ’18 Th’18: I recently started a company with Samwel Bahebe ’18 and my brother, Eduard Cornew ’18. Since artisanal or small-scale gold mining (ASGM) was legalized in Tanzania in 2010, Sam knew that he wanted to get involved. As the sector developed, he began to notice the growing health impacts that mercury processing was having on the mining communities. By the time Sam made it to Dartmouth, he knew that he wanted to help foster both the economic development and the long-term sustainability of the growing ASGM sector. Sam recruited me to develop the tech—and it quickly became clear that the opportunity was much larger than the Band-Aid solution we had begun developing in Thayer’s machine shop. We had set out to mitigate the adverse effects of mercury processing via a mercury containment and recapture device; now we were going to address the lack of processing infrastructure and efficient distribution in Tanzania’s ASGM sector. We are currently growing our distribution capacities, acting as a broker/dealer for mines, buying gold at above local-market prices, and selling to high-tech precious metals refineries in Dallas, Texas. 

Once we have built out our distribution channel, we will begin constructing clean processing facilities in the mining communities we operate. We will use techniques that rely on sodium cyanide and activated carbon to extract the gold from the ore. This technology is not new but is expensive to install, and is the reason that Tanzanian natives have been relying on harmful and inefficient mercury. Thayer helped a great deal in my holistic understanding of systems and how to integrate discrete systems into novel solutions. For example, we are going to develop photovoltaic systems to meet the energy demands of our processing facilities. We intend to overbuild our solar capacity so that we can service the energy needs of neighboring communities in rural Tanzania. I have opened discussions with a clean energy company in Jordan to size the system and optimize various components to work well for our specific application. 

Thanks to Thayer’s expansive curriculum, I have the necessary experience in both mechanical and electrical engineering to design the mechanical layout, the material flow paths of the processing facility itself, and the electrical system required to run it. The market is enormous. In Tanzania—where we plan on buildin our proof-of-concept plant in 2019—there are around 1.5 million small-scale miners we could partner with. This represents a significant portion of the estimated 10 to 15 million ASGM miners around the world. We want to empower the Tanzanian people to make better use of the opportunities and resources available to them. If our model is successful in Tanzania, we have dreams of expanding to neighboring African countries and South and Central America. 

Katie Flattum ’18 Th’18: After graduating from Dartmouth and Thayer in June, I’ve been working for Amazon in Santa Barbara, Calif. I’m a knowledge engineer on the Alexa team, working to expand Alexa’s knowledge base using structured data and natural language understanding. 

John Leahy Th’18: I am currently working part-time for a biotechnology company called Boca Scientific while I look for a full-time position that can start a career I am passionate about. 

Categories: Alumni News, Thayer Notes

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