College of Engineering News Room
Seizing Engineering Opportunities
by Russell Nay
While completing his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at USF, Ossie Douglas completed four engineering internships with private companies, a research center at USF and an independent state transportation agency.
Seeking a way to get real-world experience, build his network and benefit Tampa communities, he said these were the opportunities that revealed themselves.
“So far, it’s all been beneficial,” Douglas said. “It’s all led me on to something more. My first internship with Intel was when I found out I could go to grad school and there were more opportunities to support my goal of pursuing a Ph.D.”
As a Ph.D. student, Douglas studies 2D materials and overcoming nanoscale challenges with the Nanomechanics, Nanomaterials, NanoManufacturing Laboratory (NM3L) at USF. 2D materials are of interest to researchers finding applications in photovoltaics, semiconductors, water purification and more.
Douglas recently returned from an internship with Intel’s thermal quality and reliability group in Arizona as part of a National GEM Consortium fellowship he was awarded. His first experience with Intel in 2017 was a sixth-month co-op in Oregon he attained after going to an Intel tech talk at USF. Douglas worked with a group of mechanical and manufacturing engineers at the company to help test and develop thermal solutions.
“I’ve been able to use skills from my experiences with Intel in my classes and in my future career,” he said. “They’ve helped in managing student organizations I’m a part of and managing any project I take on.”
Douglas was also a mechanical engineering intern with air purifier startup Molekule for nearly a year starting in 2018. The company’s purifier uses air cleaning tech developed by USF Chemical and Biomedical Engineering professor Yogi Goswami, Ph.D. Goswami directs the USF Clean Energy Research Center (CERC), where Douglas volunteered for nearly two and a half years as a research assistant.
Douglas’ work with Molekule’s research and development team as well as USF CERC focused on the study of air flow dynamics within a fabric dryer. His work aimed to optimize a dryer’s temperature and airflow for reduced energy consumption. The completion of his research allowed him the opportunity to present his results at the Emerging National Researchers Poster Presentation competition in Washington D.C.
While Douglas had a variety of internships throughout his undergrad program, he focused most of his participation in student organizations into the American Society of Mechanical Engineers at USF (USF ASME). He joined both USF ASME and CERC in 2015, as one of his CERC colleagues was ASME USF’s former student president. She convinced him to get involved with chapter projects, competitions and become part of ASME’s e-board.
Douglas spent a semester as the chapter’s vice president before becoming its president in the spring of 2018. His main goal as president of ASME at USF was to add competing in ASME E-Fest North 2019 to the chapter’s list of student career development opportunities. ASME E-Fest North was a brand new annual ASME event at the time, held in Michigan and featuring a variety of student design competitions and networking opportunities. Douglas said the biggest challenge was designing and building both a robot and human-powered bike from scratch for the event.
“It was my final year as undergrad at USF, so I wanted to make sure we could compete,” he said. “We had to prepare for two projects instead of one, which wasn’t something I was anticipating.”
Douglas was also responsible for overseeing ASME USF’s events on campus, including Present-A-Bull. The event allowed USF’s engineering students to present their research projects to university and industry professionals. Douglas — interning for Molekule at the same time — presented his research on air flow dynamics there.
Despite a packed year, ASME USF was not only able to compete in the human-powered bike and robotics challenges at E-Fest North but three additional challenges as well. The chapter’s human-powered bike and robot designs made it to the student design competition semifinals, and two members placed among the top three in impromptu engineering competitions at the event.
“My path with ASME USF up to this point and afterwards has been a nice rollercoaster ride,” he said. “I didn’t actually expect to be president when I started way back in 2015.”
Douglas also helped coordinate ASME USF collaboration events with the National Society for Black Engineers at USF and served as a weekend tutor for local K-12 students through the NSBE chapter. His mentorship extended to being a program coordinator for USF Bulls-EYE Mentoring — a summer program giving local middle schoolers an introduction into engineering, USF and new STEM skills.
“I wanted to have an opportunity to teach kids about robotics and STEM because when I was in middle school, I didn’t really have opportunities to make robots and mess with cool programs,” he said. “They have the opportunity to apply and build all these skills if they know where to go and they know where the opportunities lie.”
As far as advice for other mechanical engineering students looking to build their own engineering careers, Douglas recommends sticking with a student organization which fosters professional growth of its members through technical projects, leadership opportunities, workshops and networking. He said a good student organization not only helps members’ resumes but their abilities to be better engineers for themselves and others.
“It comes back to developing the right attitude, resilience, communication and patience — all the aspects you need to succeed in engineering,” Douglas said. “It’ll help you progress in all the different opportunities you’ll be taking on in the future.”