Jahmil Campbell is currently Engineering Manager of the Controls Independent Test and Validation Team at GE Transportation, a Wabtec company. Campbell serves on the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Young Alumni Board and is an alumnus of the Department of Electrical Engineering (BS ‘07, MS ‘10).
Where are you from?
I’m a proud native Buffalonian and a graduate of City Honors High School.
As a student, what did you want to be “when you grew up?”
I gravitated towards STEM when I was in middle and high school. I was fortunate to have teachers and staff that really took a vested interest in nurturing my curiosities. I really took a liking towards biology and math and coming out of high school had every intention of becoming a pharmacist. Transitioning to the collegiate setting, I was presented with so many opportunities to continue my education at UB. I used my freshman year to branch out and experience firsthand the classes and subjects that would start me down the path of different careers: mathematician, biologist, pharmacist. I ultimately decided on electrical engineering because it married my love of math and science.
Was there a memorable lecture, professor, or moment from your UB experience that stuck with you and helped shape your future?
When I got to UB, I started off in engineering, where, like all first year engineering students, I took EAS 140 (now called EAS 199: Engineering Principles). My professor was Dr. Jennifer Zirnheld, and one of the final projects for her class was to design a power plant and route the transmission given a specific load. I got interested in her work, and it led to me working with Dr. Zirnheld throughout my undergraduate and graduate years.
Dr. Zirnheld nurtured my love for research and fostered a sense of responsibility within me. The rigor by which she ran the Energy Systems Institute and personal interest she took in the success of all her students was life-changing. Dr. Zirnheld showed me that I could accomplish almost anything through hard work and dedication. She also instilled the importance of teamwork through the collaboration of all academic researchers in the lab. All members of the lab supported each other amongst various experiments and research opportunities. Her selfless nature, friendship and personal sacrifice to empower and give her students a better future continue to have a profound effect on my life to this day.
What clubs or organizations were you a part of during your time at UB?
I was an assistant for the football team, which was a really fun experience. I was also part of the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP), the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP), Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and the National Society for Black Engineers (NSBE).
CSTEP and LSAMP in particular were two programs that introduced me to a community of peers and mentors that I still leverage today. They provided an opportunity to build connections with alumni and learn from them, bridging the gap between academia and Industry.
What is your current role and how did you end up there?
Currently, I’m the Engineering Manager of the Independent Test & Validation team at GE Transportation.
I began my career at GE Transportation in 2010 as a member of the Edison Engineering Development Program. As a part of this two-year program, I got the opportunity to try out six-month appointments on four different teams. I worked with teams in project management, simulation and modeling, controls system design and software development. I particularly liked the controls system design team. Working as a design engineer gave me the most opportunity to grow as an engineer at that point in my career. It aligned with my desire to develop a wide breadth of knowledge across the product while challenging me technically. It also gave me the ability to design, innovate and ultimately see the ideas from inside my head become a tangible thing, which still instills pride to this day.
In 2015, I was approached by the company to lead a pilot program that validates and tests products and systems. I successfully transitioned the program from operating off of a grant to being self-funded. The team is now comprised of 30 people, of a huge variety of backgrounds, working together. Our multidisciplinary makeup allows us to cover much more ground as a team. We are able to meet challenges across all of the subsections of the engineering organization by working collaboratively and sharing knowledge.
What’s an example of a project you’re proud of?
In 2015 the EPA began to enforce new emissions requirements for locomotives that were much more stringent than previous standards (Tier 4). My team and I were tasked with creating a solution that would allow us to balance cost and power efficiency for our customers, while producing lower emissions. The solution that we came up with utilizes a system where the exhaust gas is re-circulated through a valve and cooler system, allowing the system to lower the NOx and particulate matter prior to emission. This novel solution, developed by GE Transportation, was the first to market. It was really a testament to the expertise, collaboration, and innovation of our team.
What motivates you in your work and in life?
I live for the moments when I can honestly say “I never would have thought to do it that way.” Unlocking a whole new way of thinking encapsulates the benefit of working and living in a diverse community. There are so many differing points of views with respect to all matters of subjects in life. Being introduced to a new viewpoint or way to solve a problem makes me a better engineer as I can approach challenges in new and exciting ways. Sharing differing points of views with friends and family allows me to gain new perspectives and add to my overall world view. I truly believe that variety is the spice of life!
How are you involved at UB now and what motivates you to stay involved?
As a member of the Young Alumni Board, I get to serve as a bridge between the school and industry, recruiting alumni to come in and speak at orientation and in EAS 199 and connecting with students myself. I love getting to pass on the gift of mentorship that I’ve had – getting to answer questions and share what I’ve learned with others.
What advice do you have for UB students who will soon embark on their careers in a highly competitive workforce, and for those who have recently graduated?
Continue to learn on a daily basis. Seize every opportunity you get to see something from someone else’s point of view.
Failure is totally normal and you’ll learn so much by not getting it right the first time.