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Renaissance engineers from Purdue

By Greg McClure

Renaissance engineers from Purdue

Author: Greg McClure
Magazine Section: Our People, Our Culture
College or School: CoE
Article Type: Issue Feature
Page CSS: #article-banner { background-position: center 15% !important;}
Feature Intro: Students Catherine Klimes, Daniel Romary and Giovanni Malloy are not your traditional engineering geeks.

Purdue engineers are a new breed; they are “Renaissance engineers.” Our students, exposed to real-world experiences more than ever before, know the importance of thinking about the field of engineering in a broad range of contexts, including economic, business, societal, political and historical. Our students have the ability to communicate engineering concepts to the public, and the ability to connect to other fields. Renaissance engineers have superb technical know-how, and they embrace the full range of human experience.

Catherine Klimes: Music, photography and design

It’s no surprise that Catherine Klimes joined the Purduettes choral group. She sang in her high school’s show choir.

Then there’s the family history. Not only are her parents Purdue grads, they both belonged to Purdue Musical Organizations. “My dad was an aviation technology major, and my mom was an electrical engineering major. My dad sang in the glee club, and Mom played in the inaugural handbell choir,” she says. “I’m a PMO kid.”

Klimes, a junior multidisciplinary engineering major from Greenwood, Indiana, applies things she’s learned singing for the national-class ensemble to many aspects of her life.

“In Purduettes, you learn about respecting other people’s time and about discipline. The PMO saying is ‘if you’re early you’re on time, if you’re late you’re left.’ In PMO only one person speaks at a time, and you respect what other people have to say. These soft skills are really valuable. For example, they have helped my relationships with professors. I respect their time, and they see that and appreciate it.”

Purdue Engineering encourages students to get involved on campus, and her mother suggested she do something completely unrelated to engineering — to demonstrate her broad interests. “I have friends in PMO who are nursing majors, education majors and political science majors. Spending time with people whose brains work differently than yours is a good thing. Learning different perspectives is a good thing.”

Her other serious interest is photography. Starting in her early teens, she taught herself the basics. She became so good that in high school, she started her own photography business. “In my junior year, I had a lot of people asking me to take photographs of them for their senior photographs. They started paying me to take their photographs.” Still in business, she finds time in her schedule to shoot senior photos and other portrait work.

In multidisciplinary engineering, Klimes’ focus is visual design engineering, an interest that goes back to when she was much younger. “I have always been a math and science person so, as a female, I thought it would be smart to pursue those skills. I was also an artistic kid, so I wanted to incorporate my art skills with the math and science. That’s how I picked my major.”

With her creative bent, Klimes looks forward to a career in product development. “I want to work on everyday consumer products like furniture, even automobiles,” she says. “I’m an engineering major but I’m learning design skills. A lot of issues in product development involve communication between the designer and the engineer. There’s kind of a tug of war between the concept and the product.”

As a product development engineer, she hopes that when a designer hands her a sketch, she can turn it into a product that matches the designer’s goal. “Instead of form battling function, I want form and function to be married.”

Daniel Romary: Government and healthcare

Prepared to make a difference in his freshman year, Daniel Romary joined Purdue Student Government as an associate director. A biomedical engineering major from New Haven, Indiana, he says, “I like to leave a place better than I found it. I knew I could do that in student government.”

Romary, who was involved in high school student council, was elected a senator during his sophomore year at Purdue. Now in his junior year, he is serving as secretary of PSG.

He regularly applies what he has learned in engineering classes to his work in student government.

“The problem-solving skills I’ve developed in engineering have translated into solving problems in student government,” he says. “In my role as secretary, I take the minutes of the Senate meetings. I wrote a software program to make that task easier.”

His passion has been ensuring student access to mental health counseling. “I have done a lot of work to obtain more mental health resources on campus for students. I gathered information about resources that other campuses have compared to what we have at Purdue. With several other students, I wrote a report on what we learned and lobbied the University administration. As a result, we now have more mental health resources on campus. They hired three additional clinicians this year. That was, in large part, due to PSG.”

On the flip side, Romary says his experiences in student government help him in engineering. “In student government, you have to persuade people that certain things are the best solutions. You also have to do that in engineering,” he says. “My student government experience has definitely helped me with that. It’s helped me in communicating ideas.”

It also has given him greater understanding of people who are not studying engineering. “I have gained a better appreciation for other majors, and I appreciate the opportunity to interact with students with different backgrounds, to work with them and to see what they’re like,” he says. “That’s been interesting, and it can be applied to the working world.”

Talking with non-engineers about engineering has not been difficult, Romary says: “It’s not a huge issue. I make sure to fully explain all of the details and expectations rather than assuming people are familiar with them.”

Medical school and becoming a surgeon are in Romary’s future plans.

“I hope to participate in a fifth-year master’s program and then go to medical school. I hope to eventually practice surgery,” he says. “I want to use my engineering studies to find solutions to treating patients better.”

Giovanni Malloy: Playing music, studying infectious disease

For Giovanni Malloy, playing jazz is similar to studying infectious diseases. “Infectious diseases are constantly changing, and there are variations of the diseases,” says Malloy, a senior from Syracuse, New York. An industrial engineering major, he also studies infectious disease models. And he plays in the Purdue Jazz Band.

“When I’m playing jazz, it changes all the time,” he says. “You have to adjust, just like when studying an infectious disease: You have to adjust to how the disease changes and adapt your model to those changes.”

Music has parallels in many areas of interest for Malloy. He says you can think about a production system or healthcare processing system the way you think about chord progression in music.

“So a 2-5-1 chord change happens a lot in jazz,” he says. “It’s frequently used as a turnaround, or change, in the music. In a production system, there are some layouts that work better than others. When you’ve ended one part of the manufacturing process system and go to another, sort of a bridge, that’s what a progression of chords is in music. In industrial engineering, you look for the best way to lay out the production floor for it to be most efficient and at the lowest cost.”

It was Miles Davis’ version of “When Lights are Low” that first excited Malloy about jazz. “It struck a nerve in me and cemented my love for jazz,” he says. He started playing trumpet in his middle school jazz band and played throughout high school. Naturally, he wanted to continue playing jazz when he came to Purdue.

When he met with Mo Trout, director of jazz bands at Purdue, Trout told him he could join a band without having to study music. “And he told me that most of jazz band players are engineering majors,” Malloy says.

Malloy plans to pursue a PhD and a research career in academia. He wants to develop computational models for infectious disease that let decision-makers preview the impact of public policy decisions and see their effect on an outbreak.

“I hope to eventually start my own lab that looks at these problems and then try to influence the Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention] and the National Institutes of Health about how to respond to outbreaks with policies. I think it’s an exciting field with math and computational aspects of engineering. I’ve done a lot of experiential learning through research. I hope to inspire others to get into this field.”