Kimberly A. Burns

   BSNRE 2006, MSNE 2008, Ph.D. NE 2009
   Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
   Burns, Kimberly
   e-mail: kimberly.burns@pnl.gov

Two main things drew me to graduate school at the Woodruff School: the reputation of the program and the research of my major professor, Dr. Nolan Hertel. I knew that I would be receiving a world-class education while being given the opportunity to participate in meaningful research.  The reputation of the institution is present for a reason. The professors strive to produce meaningful members of the technical field who can impact the world in a meaningful way. In addition to the academics, as a research institution, a large goal is to produce highly technical and impactful research. Finding a professor that conducted research that inspired me was important in my decision making process. Dr. Hertel's research was very appealing to me and gave me the opportunity to hone my skills in the laboratory. This balance of academics and research drew me to the school.

I didn't realize how much I really learned until after I left school, particularly on the academic side. When you take so many classes for so many years, it seems like an endless flood of information, of which you only get the opportunity to use a small fraction while in school. Since I have been working at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, I have been asked to draw on knowledge from essentially every major class I took in graduate school, be it in my "field of expertise"or not. 

Working as a Graduate Research Assistant also prepared me immensely for work as a researcher at a national laboratory. It has given me a basis to form some sound engineering judgments from. I have been able to look at certain problems and determine, based on experience, that something was incorrect, or that the answer was unreasonable. The has proved an invaluable skill that I am continuing to hone with experience.

The major strength of the Woodruff School and Georgia Tech as a whole are the faculty. The professors make the programs. They teach the students, provide the opportunities for research, and have the ability to ignite ambition in future generations. A great professor makes a great classroom. In all my years at Georgia Tech (both as a graduate student and an undergrad), there were more professors that were interested in the well being and success of the students than just completing the class and issuing grades. The majors that the Woodruff School offers (Bioengineering, Mechanical Engineering, Nuclear Engineering, Medical Physics, and Paper Science and Engineering) are complex. To fully grasp the concepts, the students require more than good textbook, they require a good instructor.

Another one of the strengths of the Ph.D. program for the Woodruff School was requiring Ph.D. candidates to complete a teaching practicum class. Although not all Ph.D.s plan to teach while they are in school, a significant number of them do. I believe that is important for college professors to understand what is required to actually teach students not just talk at them. Many college professors have never taken a teaching class. I think it is impressive that they require Ph.D. candidates to complete a teaching practicum.

I believe the Woodruff School's graduate program to be excellent. The faculty provided the guidance and instruction necessary to obtain a proper education. Their research efforts have also allowed students the opportunity to gain experience in conducting proper research under the supervision of experienced researchers. All of this gave me opportunity to excel in my current position as a research engineer at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

The student body is composed of a group of competent, dedicated students. The graduate students, in particular, seemed to be very focused, intelligent individuals. The facilities are very accommodating. The school is constantly upgrading with new buildings, equipment, etc. The older buildings on campus are all being renovated or replaced. Computers required to simulate complex models and laboratory equipment are kept current.


Patricia D. BrackinPatricia D. Brackin

[Ph.D. ME 1997]
Associate Professor
Department of Mechanical Engineering
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
Terre Haute, Indiana

I decided to go to Georgia Tech because they were willing to work with me as a nontraditional student. I already had an MS and I had worked in industry. I was currently teaching at a small, undergraduate university and I wanted to go back and get a Ph.D. At the time, I was newly divorced with three small children. Most of the schools that I talked to said, "Oh, with your credentials, you will have no trouble getting into our school, and you should be able to get funding." However, the schools did nothing to help me. When I talked to Dr. Wepfer at Georgia Tech, he asked how much money I needed and then helped me secure that funding. Without his help, I would not have been able to go back and get a Ph.D.

Being at Georgia Tech was like being in a candy store where everything was free. The faculty, staff, and the infrastructure are geared to helping you succeed as a graduate student. If I needed anything for my research, my advisor made sure that I got what I needed. In addition, the school has site licenses for lots of software. I was able to get all of the software that I needed for my home and office computer for free.

The quality of the faculty, students, facilities, and programs are top notch. When I was at Tech, we moved into the new manufacturing building. I loved everything about the building - the floors, the colored pipes, and the offices. My research labs and my advisor were all in the same building which made it really nice. My fellow graduate students were wonderful. We had study groups for classes, and we had a great time talking to each other about our research. The graduate students in my lab were very interested in my research and we had lots of interesting debates about everything. My advisor had us over to his house for a cookout several times a year, so we had a nice family feel. I remember that a new Star Trek movie came out while I was in graduate school. We all got together and went to see it.


I started Georgia Tech during winter quarter. My first day at Tech it started snowing and all of the area schools closed. My children's school called the Woodruff School and Claudette Noel tracked me down in class and got the message to me. I was really impressed that she went to that trouble to help. I was at Tech during some momentous events in Atlanta: I started the year that Georgia Tech tied for the national football championship. I was there the year the Braves went from worst to first. And I was there for the blizzard when Atlanta got 12 inches of snow. I will always have fond memories of Atlanta.