A wealth of experiences in college prepared Nathan Thomas for a diversity of project assignments once he graduated. As a student, he was involved in the Hip Hop Dance Club, intramural soccer, The Engineering Ambassadors and Mentors program, Minds of Tomorrow, Presidents Leadership Class, AIAA, the George Washington Carver Academy, and the Freshman Honors program. Thomas now works for Base2 Solutions as a senior systems engineering consultant and credits his success to those academic experiences that happen outside of the classroom.
Describe a typical day. What are your job duties?
I’ve been blessed with two careers since I graduated from ISU.
At Rockwell Collins, I worked on integrated flight deck avionics systems for military cargo, transport, and special mission aircraft. I developed system architectures and designs and also led some of our test programs. I was responsible for ensuring that all of our requirements were met and that our systems met the customer’s needs. I spent most of my days in the System Integration Lab flying simulated flight plans and testing and troubleshooting our avionics.
At Base2 Solutions, I’m currently working on the propulsion and fuel system for Boeing’s KC-46 Pegasus, which is the next generation aerial refueling tanker for the US Air Force. I work with engineers, managers, and executives, from across disciplines to plan, manage, and execute the program’s certification activities. In addition to supporting the client, I am also a first level manager at my company and I’m responsible for maintaining our company’s Quality Management System, which is critical for retaining our AS9100 certification.
What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of being a Systems Engineering at Rockwell Collins was the opportunity to play with really cool flight deck avionics systems in the lab, perform ground and flight testing with pilots and maintainers, and the experience of traveling internationally to Germany and Singapore as part of my assignments.
My favorite part of being a Consultant at Base2 Solutions is that every project is new and exciting. Before working on the KC-46 propulsion and fuel system, I supported a software start-up that was creating technology to allow airlines to access on-aircraft data buses in real-time. Before that, I worked on a proposal response for a joint NASA-US Air Force project related to an autonomous control system for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). This keeps life very interesting!
What advice would you offer current aerospace engineering undergrads?
Some of the most important things that you learn in college don’t come from reading books or sitting in class. Get involved with study groups, clubs, and organizations that will help improve your leadership, communication, and time management skills. This will set you apart when you get into industry.
What is your fondest memory of your time as an undergrad in the department/at ISU?
My fondest memories are those long hours spent with great friends, and tons of caffeine, in the Howe Hall atrium and computer labs. I’m still good friends with many of those classmates.
What do you know now that you wish you had known as an undergrad?
In sports, your practices are supposed to be harder than your games because that’s the only way you can be ready. College should be the same way. While I didn’t always enjoy struggling through those really difficult courses, those were the ones that really taught me how to prepare.