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Hydrogen Properties for Energy Research (HYPER) Laboratory Cool. Fuel.

How we master engineering through daily practice

“How do you practice to perform as an engineer?” — HYPER lab mentor PK Northcutt II

The question was simple and sincere. But I (Jake Leachman) had no answer. I had been an ‘engineer’ for over a decade and was now teaching others to be ‘engineers’, but I had nothing. With a decade of experience practicing football, shotput and discus, Jazz trombone, you name it; I had practiced for decades but could not identify a singular act or trait in engineering that could be considered deliberate ‘practice’ as I had, well, practiced with these other professional performances. Sure I’d given students homework problems to do … » More …

Learning how to say thank you; from one professional to another


Looking back over my life a consistent thread has emerged with the people I’ve tried to keep around — they know how to say thank you, or express gratitude, in memorable ways. Although this could be a nuance particular to me, my guess is you’ve noticed similar trends in your life. So why is it we so often struggle to say thanks as a community? How am I supposed to teach aspiring professionals to say thank you, professionally and appropriately, to other professionals? I had … » More …

You had an idea! Now what?

It’s awesome when it happens. A new concept or idea for something to solve a problem for yourself or someone else just popped into your head (more on that here). For me the hair stands up on my neck and I want to run to the nearest person and tell them the idea and why it’s important. Evidently I have a crazy look on my face when this happens because it’s scared people before. Here’s the deal — excitement like this is contagious, and unless you’re careful to get your ducks in a row, it could lead to false hope/promises and unmet expectations.

What … » More …

Grit and Overcoming the Fear of Failure

A Forward

By Yulia Gitter

As I sat on my back porch late one night chatting with some colleagues from the HYPER Lab, we somehow managed to come up on the topic of failure. This has always been a subject of interest to me because I have failed a lot in my life so far, but have always been able to bounce back quickly and thrive nonetheless. Knowing only a very small part of my colleague’s background, I just blurted out “have you ever failed at anything?” I meant no harm by the question but was genuinely curious as to what his response would be. … » More …

HYPER lab Stories from Summer 2020

Every semester young and old members of the HYPER lab complete a work specification document and review it with Mark Parsons and I. This work spec develops an anticipated plan for the term while identifying ideal team-mates and overall goals. Ideally, this plan merges the personal drive and overarching individual goals with those of the lab. At the end of the term the final story of work is submitted in a format that allows the story of what was accomplished to be easily told to potential employers or supporters. To build on this tradition, I realized this summer that these stories have a greater … » More …

How to Procure Parts Easily and Efficiently – The HYPER Way

Have you ever had a $45,000 piece of equipment show up in your facility, and thought: “I don’t remember what this is for…”? Well, I had this exact thing happen to me. I was fortunate in that the 900 pounds of equipment sitting in the shipping bay was a simple mix-up with the company delivering our equipment. Crisis averted! However, in many instances mistakes like this can lead to the loss of funds, and sometimes even jobs. The responsibility often falls to project managers to have a crystal-clear picture of the flow of parts and equipment coming in for their systems.

Getting Back to Work…At Work (The HYPER Guide to Returning to the Lab Safely)

A new semester has begun, and research is kicking into high gear…but we are not operating under normal conditions. The pandemic has laid new challenges at our feet which has completely changed how we approach even the simplest of tasks. It is important, now more than ever, to band together as a lab community and apply HYPER ethics to tackle these obstacles.

As quarantine restrictions loosen in our state and we can begin returning to work, we have created a plan for returning to work that will help us to stay on track with our research goals while maintaining high safety standards to prevent the … » More …

How we made (and remade) the HYPER community website

It took 10 years for me to start calling the HYPER laboratory a community. In one month we’ll have had a website for six of those ten years. In many ways those first six years were much like the six year tenure process we follow as faculty. While we’ve continually added content (>300 posts and >75 pages) within our core themes of Research, Teaching, and Service, we’ve never really sat back and thought about how to make the site truly great. This post tells the story of how the site evolved, from starting as one of the ‘guinea pig’ sites my neighbor friends (Steve Locker … » More …

Remotely difficult? How WE manage the HYPER lab from near or far.

Now that the COVID-19 epidemic has forced authorities around Earth to act, many of us are waking up to the new normal of having to manage experimental research communities from afar for extended periods of time. Most lab PIs travel so much that lab management seems remote anyways. But when only essential personnel are allowed in the lab, how do you keep people engaged without skipping a beat?  In this post we’ll cover how we keep the HYPER lab’s ~35 members working together regularly, and how this allows us to transition quickly to remote work with even a very hands-on experimental hydrogen cryogenics laboratory. We … » More …

How HYPER uses 6S for Success

It’s really simple. Continuous improvement results in speed, more success, and safety. Procedures are easy to continuously improve — they handle complex tasks with ease, they take input freely from many, they always take blame when something goes wrong, and they never complain about change. I enjoy good procedures. So… Why do we bury procedures in complex lab manuals that are never where we need them? Why do we leave procedures in passive black and white prose instead of fun active colorful mental maps? Why do we teach procedures in individual lab exercises that nobody else will ever use? » More ...