I’ve got great news! One of my Lab Managers, Dr. Eric Ruggiero, was just awarded the 2013 AIAA Lawrence Sperry Award. I’m very fortunate, as I’ve got a great team of Lab Managers – these are folks who directly lead “Labs”, teams of approximately a dozen researchers. I love reading Dilbert – and with that as a perspective on what “managers” might be, it’s easy to see that some would think a “Lab Manager” is just someone dealing with all of the non-technical parts of a team – budgets, people-issues, spreadsheets, etc.
But that’s not what my Lab Managers do. My Lab Managers do manage some non-technical issues, but they are also researchers. They know I expect them to be big thinkers in their spaces; that in conjunction with their research teams, I expect them to form bold visions, execute world-class research, and drive technologies into the hands of our customers.
With that as an expectation, I was thrilled to learn earlier this year that Eric was awarded the Lawrence Sperry Award, which was formally awarded today at the AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting in Texas. This award recognizes an early-career researcher for exemplary research accomplishments and impact, and Eric is a very worthy recipient. I met Eric on a recruiting trip at Virginia Tech some number of years ago, and recognized right away that he would be an excellent researcher and a strong leader. We kept in touch until he graduated, and was excited when he joined GE Global Research, working for one of my peers.
Eric joined a team that does research on high-tech seals for turbomachinery. That was only peripherally related to his dissertation work, but we hire researchers more for their research talent than for the exact topic of their dissertation. Eric has great curiosity and learned about seals very quickly – both traits that we highly value in GE. As a result, he was made strong contributions very early in his career, and the next several years saw Eric innovate and impact product countless times. It is this body of work that won him that Lawrence Sperry Award.
I continued to follow Eric’s career at GE. When I had a need for someone to lead one of my heat transfer teams, I asked Eric to apply. Even though his background is not in heat transfer, I knew that Eric was very sound with engineering fundamentals, and I had seen him learn so fast on the Seals team, that I had full confidence he would be able to learn the heat transfer side and lead that team effectively. He continues in that role today and is getting deeper by the day in turbine heat transfer. I expect great things from Eric in the years to come.
So check out the press release below on Eric’s award, and join me in congratulating him. For those who are interested in careers at GE, Eric is a great example. His story shows how much we care about our researchers truly becoming “world class”, and the fact that we want our technical leaders to be real technologists.