GE Global Research asked some of our interns to share why they wanted to work here and what they’ve learned during their experience. This is the second in a series of intern blogs. Here’s what Dan Cadel had to say…
GE is a big company. But at Global Research, it doesn’t feel that way.
This summer, I have had the privilege of working as an R&D Intern at GE Global Research in Niskayuna, NY. I’m working in the Turbine Heat Transfer Technologies Lab, which deals with allowing metal and ceramic components to safely run in an engine where the air temperatures are higher than the materials’ limits. The closer we can push the margin, the more powerful and efficient GE can make its engines.
The rest of the year, I am a Ph.D. candidate at Virginia Tech, where my research is in aerodynamics and instrumentation development. At school, my work is supported by GE Power and Water in Greenville, SC, and is focused on wind turbines – quite different from the turbines I’m working with at GRC. My research sponsors from Greenville encouraged me to apply for this internship so I could get a feel for the GE culture, and also gain a first-hand understanding of the daily life of GE engineers. And in the process, I’d also be contributing to the cutting edge of GE’s technology development.
Once here, I was assigned to three projects, representing multiple stages in the lifecycle of a research project. One was a feasibility study for a new experimental rig based on an idea by a researcher in my group. For another project, I was tasked with helping bring on line a new rig in the final stages of build-up. And for the third project, I worked to streamline a set of control programs to facilitate human interaction with the instrumentation. In all of these projects, my previous experiences gave me the tools I needed to do the research, while I could easily pick up details on the job.
One thing I discovered pretty quickly is that the engineers here have diverse research backgrounds, and their ability to interact on high-level research is what makes them valuable. The fact that I work with wind turbine aerodynamics in Blacksburg and gas turbine heat transfer in Niskayuna did not slow me down; in fact a number of people in my research group were in the exact same position as I when they started at GE. While details of any given field can be picked up on the job, it’s the engineering insight and a researcher’s mindset that take time to develop, and fortunately, these translate across specialties.
I also learned that it’s fairly common for full-time researchers to work in more than one lab while at Global Research, so they gain experience and exposure to different areas. Global Research engineers also may move to a business itself. In this way, the personal connections among research groups within GRC, and with designers and managers at the businesses, remain very strong. It also enables engineers to take what they’ve learned at Global Research and apply it in a business setting, further contributing to the integrity of a product. The company may be big, but connections among individuals bring it down to size.
Towards the end of the summer, I had the opportunity to present some results, along with my colleagues, to GE Aviation. As an intern, I was honored to be included in a discussion that involved all levels of management, including Aviation managers. Everyone involved had a lively discussion about the project merits and plan moving forward.
The company doesn’t seem so big when you’re on a first name basis with everyone on your conference call.
Daniel Cadel is a Ph.D. candidate at Virginia Tech working in the fields of experimental aerodynamics and instrumentation development. During the summer of 2014, he worked in the Turbine Heat Transfer Technologies Lab in the Thermal Systems Organization at GRC.