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Home » Discover Rackham » Student Spotlight: Bryan Maldonado

Bryan Maldonado, originally from Ecuador, knew that when it came to being on the cutting edge of automotive technology, there was no better place to go than Michigan. “The decision was easy,” he said. “Michigan was the best option by far.”

Bryan came to Rackham in 2014 as a master’s student and is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. Growing up, Bryan had always had an interest in cars, and during his undergrad at Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador, he double majored in mechanical engineering and math. When he came to Michigan, he was able to combine his lifelong interest and formal academic training to drive his primary area of study. His research focuses on how vehicle engines should operate, including the design of control algorithms to increase fuel efficiency, reduce emissions, and make them more environmentally friendly. During his master’s program, he focused mainly on combustion control for spark-ignition, port-injected engines with exhaust gas recirculation. To further his research, he utilizes a variety of resources on campus, specifically the Powertrain Control Laboratory.

Bryan has also been a grateful recipient of various forms of funding. As a graduate student instructor (GSI), he is able to earn an income and gain experience through teaching distance learning courses. He also has an appointment as a graduate student research assistant (GSRA) that allows him to gain hands-on experience with a faculty member conducting funded research. Bryan initially hoped to pursue academia as a lifelong career focus, but is open to different industry positions focusing on research with the possibility of an academic position further in the future.

Additionally, Bryan has seen the direct impact of donor generosity in the form of a Rackham Summer Award. It is awards like this that allow graduate students to continue moving forward with research and data collection without the unnecessary burden of financial stress. “Support like this is what allowed me to pursue my Ph.D. It can be really limiting to know that you’re going into debt and will have the burden of paying it back later. Funding allowed me to focus on personal and academic priorities, instead of going from the lab to a second job just to get by.” Part of those funds also allowed Bryan to collaborate with a Villanova University professor on a new control method to prevent engines from misfiring.

Of his experience as a graduate student, Bryan says it’s been nothing short of wonderful. “You hear everyone talk about the stress and the deadlines and the workload and feeling overwhelmed, but I am just very happy to be in graduate school, and I feel very spoiled to be at Michigan.” Bryan notes the resources he’s utilized through Rackham and the College of Engineering, combined with the support of his advisor, Professor Anna Stefanopoulou, stating that he truly feels that student wellbeing is a top priority for the University.

Like any graduate student on campus, Bryan knows advanced education is challenging. “It’s hard, but it’s very rewarding to be able to advance society with the discoveries we are making. That’s why we keep going.”