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

Reflections on privilege, decadence, and my life to become an academic

It’s Labor Day weekend and the beginning of the third week of a quarantined fall semester due to COVID-19. Over the last couple of weeks our community was home to considerable displays of decadence — parties of 100s without social distancing or facial coverings. Now the National Guard is coming to town to help cope with the surge of COVID-19 cases. Pullman topped the New York Times list of highest percentage of COVID-19 cases per capita on Labor Day. I hear the increased frequency of the Medivac helicopter flying over my house transporting people to Spokane; reminding me of the day I nearly lost my … » More …

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 …

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 …

Core Tenets of Complex System Evolution from Thermodynamics

It was no less than Albert Einstein who said, “Classical Thermodynamics is the only physical theory of a universal nature in which, I am convinced that, within the framework of its basic concepts it will never be overthrown.” Around a century later this statement holds true; classical thermodynamics remains a cornerstone of physical law with physicists trying to resolve the predictions of quantum gravity with the laws of thermodynamics.

After over a decade of teaching thermodynamics and system design, it’s time to more formally merge these disparate fields. If the Laws of Thermodynamics do indeed apply to and govern everything in the physical universe, they … » More …

‘A Fee is a Price’ transferred to Grading Rubrics

Most professors face the problem of developing a “Grading Rubric“: or the list of scores and deductions to be given for attributes of an assignment. To give you an idea of where rubrics are at in engineering education, the leading voice in engineering education pedagogy, Richard Felder advocates rigorous assessment with rubric transparency. Contrast these complex grading rubrics with what one of my good friends recently told a class: “You lose a letter grade every time your group is responsible for schedule slip that could have been avoided if you had cared… — if you hold final construction up, even by a class, you’re down a … » More ...

How to identify and handle an abusive adviser, boss, or colleague

Whenever I’m repeatedly asked for advice about a topic it becomes a post on this blog. Around this time of year many undergraduates and graduates working in the HYPER lab are considering offers to advance their careers. The most common, and rightly critical, question is how to find the right mentor and colleagues for that next phase in life while avoiding the abusive adviser/boss/colleague (I’m going to use ‘authority’ from here on) that could stall your career for years. It’s no easy task — you’re typically granted only a 30 minute choreographed interview in your potentially new authority’s carefully orchestrated office before deciding whether to … » More …

Celebrating the lifetime accomplishments of a Palouse Titan — Richard T Jacobsen

I received word yesterday that my first graduate studies advisor, Richard T (Jake) Jacobsen, passed away. His exemplary contributions to universities on the Palouse, the greater state of Idaho, the field of thermophysical properties research, and the careers of many researchers warrants recognition. To state it simply, I would not be where I am in life had he not taken the chance on hiring a cocky football player with a poor GPA nearly 15 years ago.

What people tend to overlook is his long-term contributions to the universities on the Palouse. Jake graduated with his Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Idaho (UI) … » More …

Taking two or going deep for three: Deciding between a M.S. and Ph.D.

Many students have been asking for advice lately on whether to do a Ph.D. or M.S. degree in the HYPER lab. Deciding between a Ph.D. or M.S. was a very different decision when I was a senior at the University of Idaho in 2005. But what I’ve found is that despite the field of engineering changing considerably over that time, much of the old dogma and advice out in industry has not. Hence, the students are getting very different advice and struggling to decide what to believe. Given the importance of this decision (it’ll only be years of your life), it’s important to set the … » More …

Initial Conditions

Where do you look when you walk into a space for the very first time?

The majority will look down at the floor to make sure you don’t trip and hurt yourself.

The architect who designed the space looked down too, at the plans and scale models.

But do you ever look up? In the place nobody tends to look? Did they think about this place that nobody tends to look? This place, that nobody tends to look, is it a blind spot?

You might ask yourself several more questions:

Where am I and is this place safe? (Survival)
Who’s here? (Tribal)
» More …

The Iconic Palouse List

We’ve all been in the room when that one Husky fan blurted out, “I don’t know why anyone would go to the Palouse. It’s a desert.” Or that one new department chair that said, “I’ve seen what the region has to offer,” before quickly leaving. For everyone else, who are still open to discovery, this list is for you.

Before we start the list let’s get our bearings straight. The Palouse is the local name for a distinct climate region in Southeastern Washington characterized by low grassy hills. The origin of the regional name ‘Palouse’ is unknown. It literally translates in French to a … » More …