Where are you from?
I’m from Johnson City, NY
Why did you choose UB?
I chose UB because of the vast array of opportunities, diverse culture through music and food, and conscious connection with the community of Buffalo.
What do you like most about engineering at UB?
I honestly love the intellectual freedom and ability to explore a variety of projects through research, clubs, and classes. You have the freedom to explore almost anything you want – from robotics and machine learning to rocketry and satellites. With your own ideas, you are even able to find funding and pursue them; especially due to the vastly supportive faculty across disciplines. I also greatly appreciate the professors within the mechanical and aerospace engineering department. They are the most fascinating and supportive people I have ever met, and are able to make extremely difficult coursework and concepts understandable and feasible.
Why did you choose to go into engineering and art?
There were two major tenets of myself that pushed me towards engineering (and studio art): the desire to design and invent, and my passion for understanding how things work. Engineering at UB has enabled me to understand how complex systems function. I am able to understand energy transference in turbines and photovoltaic panels, formulate controls and responses using sensors and computers, and recognize fundamental physics and forces in structures such as in bridges, suspension, and even airplanes. While I have learned how things work, and processes to scientifically design and improve, I also pursue art to enhance my ability in creative design, problem solving, and human factors.
What is your favorite place on campus?
This is a really tough question, so I’ll list a few! Favorite place to eat is a mix between the NY Deli and Diner in Talbert’s (Bert’s) and Rachel’s Mediterranean in The Commons; Bert’s has great food and is a great hang-out spot. Favorite place to study is probably a tie between Davis and Lockwood. Lockwood gives the feel and coziness of an old library with history, and Davis has very modern, high tech spaces that are beautiful to study in. While I list these, there are plenty of “secret spots” where I love to explore and study, and I am continually discovering more even three years into my time here!
What are you working on right now?
Currently, I am working on two projects: (1) designing and building a high-payload multi-rotor UAV, and (2) wrapping up the back end of a water quality research trip to India. The goal of the first project is to design and build a high-payload UAV tool for UB researchers, which will perform a variety of tasks: search and rescue, delivery, and robotic coupled task performance. This involves a significant amount of literature review, design and building, and integration and testing. The project is funded by CURCA, the Center for Undergraduate and Research Activities.
The second project involved a recent trip of mine to India with Dr. Walter Hakala of Asian Studies, where we explored traditional water structure quality to municipal sources and their potential as a sustainable water source in the Deccan Plateau of India. We learned more about how they function, and the current sociopolitical climate and conditions of these sites, as well as what local NGOs are working towards. I am wrapping up a conference paper on this work.
Tell us about your campus and/or community involvement.
On campus and in the community of Buffalo, I have been highly involved in research and volunteering in areas of education. I think education is extremely important and fundamental for the betterment of countless problems, and affords people the opportunity to achieve nearly anything. I worked at Buffalo General Hospital doing clinical research, have been in a biochemistry lab, been involved in robotics, and am currently in UAV mechanical design research. I love teaching and taught a semester of undergraduate honors colloquium, a service-learning course. I also led an alternative break trip to the Dominican Republic where we taught English to Spanish-speaking natives. I volunteered regularly through Science is Elementary, running interactive demonstrations and experiment-based science lessons at local public schools. I also volunteered at the Buffalo Elementary School of Technology, where I tutored 8th grade math afterschool.
What have you done that you are most proud of?
I am most proud of having the opportunity to travel to Scotland and explore the United Kingdom through the US-UK Fulbright program. While I was there, I was able to explore the intersection of technology, innovation, and creativity and also independently explored homelessness in Glasgow. When I was there, I was able to talk to homeless people first-hand and hear their stories. I compiled a video of my interviews and presented it to the university panel and the other scholars.
What are you looking forward to?
I am excited for the opportunity this coming summer to conduct research in radioglaciology at Stanford University through Dr. Schroeder’s lab in the EARTH department. The work involves developing better radar instrumentation and data analysis techniques to understand the dynamics and changing state of ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland. I will be working towards developing sensor technology that better predicts the behavior of ice and water and its contribution to global sea level rises.
What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about applying engineering and art to humanitarian and environmental issues. I want to be able to utilize my artistic background to understand, portray, and advocate for issues such as displaced refugees, clean water, and sustainable energy. I correspondingly wish to leverage mechanical engineering design and controls to solve problems.
What are your future goals or hopes?
I hope to someday become a professor at a research university, running a lab that focuses on engineering for global development. This lab would explore concepts of new irrigation techniques, water management and sanitation, small farm mechanization, energy generation, and transportation.
What’s your advice for prospective students?
Take the time in college to explore things that you are passionate about and want to do, no matter what they are. Be brave, explore your own ideas, and step outside your comfort zone.
Jonathan Bessette received a 2019 Leaders in Excellence Scholarship from the UB Engineering and Applied Sciences Alumni Association (UBEAA).