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

“It’s like teaching engineers how to negotiate.”

Congratulations! You got the interview. Just don’t mess it up with these common mistakes. What you might not have thought about yet is the negotiation. Whether you realize it or not, the negotiation process usually starts during the interview. So plan ahead and get an early start.

Negotiating has never felt natural for me. It goes with the territory of being an engineer. Everything we do is about working more efficiently, taking only what we need, delivering something that works consistently within the physical bounds allowed by nature, and building our reputation based on the merit of the products we produce. The engineer’s creed … » More …

Start your cryogenics career with a Boom!


People often ask both why and how I ended up focusing my career on a niche area like cryogenic hydrogen. To be honest, I had no idea that cryogenics was even a field of research, like the vast majority of engineering and physics students graduating from our universities. I started down this path by accident when my Master’s Thesis Advisors at the University of Idaho, Dr. Richard Jacobsen and Dr. Steve Penoncello, gave me the option in the Fall of 2005 to either write new equations of state for hydrogen or natural gas distribution. I chose hydrogen, because of rockets, like most young engineers … » More …

The power of story

The room was packed with the who’s-who — and somehow I’m in the panel on stage. The mic was passed to me. Not knowing how to begin, I just told my story. Not far along I started receiving smiles, nods, and laughter from the audience. From that point on I knew I had an audience that could relate to my story.

(Here’s a secret for those of you that don’t know me — I’ve never been great at telling stories.)

It’s amazing how effective a story is at communicating — despite the fact that everyone’s story is different. There is something inherent about a personal … » More …

You don’t know Jack.

Many seem to think my student mentoring style is non-traditional. At least the students tell me it’s different from other faculty. It’s because you don’t know Jack. My dad Jack. Mentor numero uno. My original mentor. Get to know Jack and you’ll start to understand.

Somehow, and I still don’t have this figured out, my dad has reliably produced outstanding teachers and mentors in his wake. His little sister Laurie spent her career as a 5th grade teacher in one of Lewiston’s tougher areas. His little brother Tom is the head science teacher at Lewiston … » More …

Blind-spots and how to discover

‘Cause we’ve all got ’em and no intelligence is universal.
We had an accident in the Leachman family household. A routine effort to clean the kitchen oven ended up stripping the veneer off the poor cabinets below. Have no fear, I’m a woodworker.

Our house is a true relic. Original custom mid-century modern built in 1956 with gorgeous tongue-and-groove ceilings and Polynesian Mahogany paneling throughout. I’m 100% sure it’s Polynesian Mahogany because it’s specified in the original blue prints we have framed on the wall.

So a jaunt to the hardware store produced some Polynesian Mahogany boards which I had shaped, bonded, … » More …

Taking Land-Grant for granted

“What’s Land-grant?”

“What do you mean ‘What’s Land-grant’? You’re sitting in one.”

We were preparing to start our weekly lab meeting when the entire meeting was derailed by that innocent question. As usual, I looked around the table to allow someone else to answer, nothing. So I asked who in the room knew what a Land-Grant Institution was. Nothing. So I asked who knew what Morrill Hall on campus was named after? Nothing. I’m starting to hyperventilate. I’ve got the best students in the College in my lab. Sometimes I kid myself though. So the next week I asked a Junior … » More …

Mentoring and The Sage at the Top of the Mountain

Me to Sage: “The university is a cancer patient.”

Without hesitation, Sage to me: “And you’re the cancer.”

Me: suddenly realizes this was part of the plan all along.

The classic tale of the sage, or old wise man, on top of the mountain was written by a sage, just not one on top of a mountain.

Why create such a tale? Why send people off alone on such an arduous journey in search of enlightenment? Because most expect to be enlightened by an authority. Authoritarians are always on top of something somewhere (See Yertle the Turtle). It’s what … » More …

Social Thermodynamics: The beginning of the end

My four year old son Max from three feet away looked directly into my eyes, then down to my mouth, then back to my eyes.

“Daddy, why aren’t you talking?”

Right in the middle of playing, my mind drifted to this book, and I was staring out the window.

The intent of his question was more along the lines of: Where did you go? We were connected and playing. What happened?

Children are generally born with an innate ability to read and mirror facial emotions. I couldn’t have taught him to do that if I wanted to. … » More …

Social Thermodynamics: Good Cop, Bad Cop

(Bad Cop standing over suspect): “Look, we know your friend ran off with the cash, and you helped him. Let’s make this real simple: WHERE IS HE?”

(Suspect, calmly): “I don’t know where he is.”

(Bad Cop): “You know I could throw on an impeding an investigation charge — another 5 years!? One last time: WHERE IS HE?”

(Suspect): “I’m not saying anything.”

(Bad Cop): “You fucked up. I’m not sure I can help you after this. I’m going to get the paperwork for the next charge.” (bad cop leaves)

(Minutes later Good … » More …

Social Thermodynamics: The Collapse of Anti-Empathy Movements

“Then again, from below, in the great heavy stack,
Came a groan from that plain little turtle named Mack.
“Your Majesty, please… I don’t like to complain,
But down here below, we are feeling great pain.
I know, up on top you are seeing great sights,
But down here at the bottom we, too, should have rights.
We turtles can’t stand it. Our shells will all crack!
Besides, we need food. We are starving!” groaned Mack.

“You hush up your mouth!” howled the mighty King Yertle.
“You’ve no right to talk to the … » More …