I’m a mechanical engineer, specializing in modeling and control. I harness the power of mathematics to accurately model complex dynamics, and then develop elegant mechanisms to control them. These techniques have immense value from the micro to the macro scale. I’ve extensively modeled tiny MEMS scale devices as part of my PhD research, and now model huge telescope mechanical structures as part of my career in industry.
Outside of my life in engineering, I love surfing and enjoy finance. I’ve lived in Southern California most of my life and find myself most at peace on a surfboard.
Optics and Telescopes
Working on a telescope, not a day goes by that I don’t think of the groups of photons, millions or billions of years old, that we are corralling into as small of a package as possible. To me, nothing is more awe and wonder inspiring than a telescope. Humanity can now look over vast expanses of space and time, and literally see cosmic history unfold.
The Giant Magellan Telescope we’re working on will see first light in 2022 and be in full operation by 2025. With a 24m aperture it will be the largest optical telescope in the world and the first of three giant telescopes being built (> 10m diameter). As telescopes get larger, there are two main effects that require advancements in precision control. First, larger diameter telescopes effectively increase resolution, which makes them more sensitive to any mirror vibration. Second, larger structures are more compliant, and thus harder to control. Increasing precision requires many subsystems working in harmony, and is my primary research interest. Within that realm there are two big modeling issues: uncertainty quantification and optimal wind attenuation.
My work for the James Webb Space Telescope introduced me to the field of uncertainty quantification. Analytical techniques for nominal performance are well understood, but as complicated projects spend more time and money in the design phase, there is an increased expectation that performance be fully understood in a probabilistic sense. Though techniques for uncertainty quantification have been developed for space based systems, the notable parameters have not been researched as closely for ground based telescopes. I plan to research how uncertainty quantification can help the field of ground based telescopes better understand the performance trade-offs made in the design phase.
Wind vibration is the main environmental factor that degrades telescope system performance. To reduce the wind load on the telescope structure, one need only close the enclosure. Though this presents the problem that an open enclosure is required to prevent undissipated heat from disrupting the optical path. This represents a critical trade off. Active feedback control of the enclosure on the order of seconds has not previously been considered… maybe it should.
Interest in Engineering Education
I’m interested in pursuing ways to make engineering education more accessible and less intimidating to both boys and girls in middle and high school. Through ATA’s partnership with Bewley, I had the opportunity help create a highly approachable robotic inverted pendulum toy that belies the wealth of engineering principles a person is introduced to when putting it together. This toy is currently used in a UCSD undergraduate engineering design course, and a derivative of the design became one of the best selling toys of 2014, called MiP. There is considerable untapped talent, and a wellspring of potential in less affluent areas. Engineering education is still a reliable means of upward mobility and instills tremendous problem solving skills that can be brought back home to improve communities throughout our own nation and the across the globe. I’m interested in developing educational robotics kits that could be 3D printed in new designs, and seeing young students experiment in networked automation. There is potential to seed these projects throughout the globe.
Interest in Finance
I became interested in micro-lending shortly after Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank won the Nobel Peace Prize. Since then I was an early adopter of peer-to-peer lending, which is a tool that empowers citizens to help one other more directly by cutting out the banks myopic concern for the bottom line. This hobby has led me to become fundamentally interested in why social or ethical investing isn’t more popular, and how we can turn this on its head. There is a stigma that social investing funds are a fad, and a waste of time, but these arguments ignore the obvious social gains. I’m interesting in seeing how controls theory can be used to better understand market dynamics in the existing markets, and also determine if recent machine learning techniques can help make socially conscious investing a palatable enterprise for the general public.