Andrew M. Brown
[MSME 1985, Ph.D. ME 1998]
Structural Dynamics and Load Group
NASA Marshall Space Flight Center
While I was a senior finishing my bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering at Duke University in 1984, I decided to pursue a Master's degree because I felt like I wasn't really prepared to become a practicing engineer. I applied to and was accepted at several institutions (MIT, Stanford, Virginia Tech, and Ga. Tech), and received good offers of financial assistance form Virginia and Georgia Tech. I decided to go to Georgia Tech because I saw that it had the breadth to explore my varied interests, the excellence that would ensure I was receiving a top quality education, the reputation that would look good to employers, and the weather that would keep me from freezing on the way to class!
After working for NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center for 3 years, I applied for NASA's one-year full time study program to go back to Ga. Tech for more punishment (sorry, I mean education). The same reasons led me back to Tech; it was especially important that there be researchers with a wide variety of interests that might be available to work with me on my dissertation research. Although I had to change advisors a few times, I did eventually find one who was willing to work with me on my unfunded project, which is unusual in academia.
My graduate experience at Georgia Tech provided me with some very useful coursework as well as experience in research. A few of the courses in particular have proven invaluable in my career (e.g. vibrations, structural dynamics, complex variables, Fourier series). In addition, studying for the qualifying exams solidified my in-depth knowledge in several areas. The research for my master's thesis and Ph.D. dissertation also taught me how to formulate the right experiments and solutions from scratch, rather than just following instructions like an undergraduate lab course.
The breadth of coursework offered as well as the overall excellence of the student body and faculty. A weakness was that graduate students' research seemed to be a "sink-or-swim" situation, where students were not made aware of or given access to necessary resources.
At the time I attended the Woodruff School, the facilities were not in the best shape, although they were improving. I believe they are now world class. The overall program, faculty, and student body are top-flight.