College of Engineering News Room

Building a Career from the Ground Up

By Brad Stager

Ossie Douglas performs research at atomic ground level, working with nanomaterials having the thickness of one atom, and that interests NASA for use in deep-space exploration projects.

That interest was expressed in the form of awarding the prestigious NASA Space Technology Graduate Research Opportunities (NSTGRO) fellowship, worth up to $80,000 yearly, to Douglas from the space agency.

Ossie Douglas

Keeping spacecraft operating smoothly when they’re far from home creates a need for reliability that Douglas’ project, “Spin manipulation in phase-engineered monolayer Janus TMDCs for low power device operation in extreme environments,” will examine.

NASA’s award to Douglas is the latest in a wide range of research opportunities that he has been involved in and dovetails with his work involving 2D nanomaterials such as Hexagonal Boron Nitride at the University of South Florida College of Engineering’s Nanomechanics, Nanomaterials, NanoManufacturing Laboratory. Among the lab’s research interests is improving the reliability and efficiency of electronic and semiconductor devices.

Besides conducting research with implications at the extremes of the known universe, Douglas has acquired a range of mechanical engineering experience, beginning with his introduction to the profession at an early age.

“I became interested in engineering during high school,” says Douglas. “It was after meeting an engineer whose work inspired me to pursue a similar career path.”

When it came time to follow through on his emerging interest in engineering, USF’s College of Engineering provided an opportunity that was a good fit for his aspiration.

“I chose USF for my studies because the school provided opportunities to learn and grow so that I may be successful on my career path,” says Douglas, who earned his BSME in 2019. He adds that developing his areas of research interest, such as nanomaterials, renewable energy, and sustainability provided an impetus to continue his education. “I chose to remain at USF for my doctoral studies because of the chance to pursue nanomaterials research, which I developed an interest in during my matriculation through undergrad.”

The ability to conduct research in an emerging field like nanotechnology requires specialized knowledge and resources that Douglas says he was able to access by attending USF.

“The Nanotechnology Research and Education Center and its staff have been extremely helpful in my studies of nanomaterials. The facility has provided support for my research through the expertise of its staff with their significant insight enabling the success of my work. The state-of-the-art tools provide the capability to accomplish key process steps in experiments.”

Besides conducting atomic-level mechanical engineering research, Douglas has found and utilized a number of opportunities at the College of Engineering to develop technical and leadership skills outside of the classroom.

Among his experiences at USF, Douglas has had a paid internship with the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority where he worked on transportation-related engineering problems, an internship involving airflow analysis and product development with the air purifying device manufacturer Molekule, and two internships with Intel Corporation focused on semiconductor research. He also gained work experience as a research assistant with USF’s Clean Energy Research Center which examines alternative energy solutions, from solar to biomass.

Douglas has also developed leadership abilities as a former president of the USF chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and introduced local middle school students to the engineering profession through USF’s Bulls-EYE mentoring program.

With substantial achievements already accomplished, Douglas says he has adopted an approach to life and work that has served him well and should do so as he continues his education and career.

"A guiding principle I work by comes from the saying ‘You get out of life what you put into it.’ The effort I’ve put into my work has allowed me to achieve more than what I initially set out to accomplish, helping me grow through unique experiences.”