Dr. Michael Fabian is an Associate Professor for the Aerospace & Mechanical Engineering Department at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Prescott.
What motivated you to pursue a career in this industry?
I’ve always been interested in engines and rockets. I majored in Aerospace Engineering at the Air Force Academy and took the propulsion track. My military career involved jet engines, rockets, directed energy weapons, and teaching engineering. I’ve been at Embry-Riddle Prescott since 2009 in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department. I’ve taught capstone propulsion, thermodynamics, thermal power systems, and 2 different space propulsion courses.
If you could go back to your college days, what would you do differently and why?
I wouldn’t change a thing. I was happy with the mix of theory and hands-on experiences to understand engineering. Like Embry-Riddle Prescott, the engineering program at the Air Force Academy is undergraduate only so the focus is on learning and all the professors are there only for the undergrads. I later had a boss that wouldn’t let people get multiple degrees from the same school. By going to multiple schools you build a larger network and get the best from multiple educational programs. For my graduate studies, the University of Washington with Boeing in town had a huge emphasis on engineering application and the University of Notre Dame had a heavy emphasis on theory since no local industry.
What is the biggest highlight of your career so far?
I would list 3 things that I never learned about in undergrad. I worked on an early transpiration-cooled turbine system using Lamilloy that allowed supercruise capability. I also worked on the Integrated Powerhead Demonstrator rocket engine that used a cryogenic full-flow cycle that was more advanced than the Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME). I also got involved with the safety of the Active Denial System, an invisible millimeter wave device for crowd control. Undergrad taught me how to learn and I was able to contribute to those systems.
What are your plans for the future?
We are still growing the Mechanical Engineering program at the Prescott Campus so adding some additional lab experience and broadening the course offerings will make the program stronger.
Can you discuss your background and what motivated you to come to Embry-Riddle?
I did 25 years in the Air Force as an Aeronautical Engineer working on research, development, testing, and evaluation of jet engines, rockets and directed energy weapons. I had taught at the Air Force for 5 years so when I retired from the military, I was interested in teaching at an undergraduate engineering program and Prescott is a place I like. I miss the R&D world but helping the next generation has it rewards.
What skills/strengths make our graduates stand out in the work force?
I like that the Prescott campus has stayed focused on undergraduate engineering with a hand-on approach. The technical extracurricular activities (Space Grant, Eagle Works, Jet Dragster, Eagle Aerospace,…) let student apply what they have learned and also take leadership roles. I think our capstone programs are superb at letting students tackle challenging problems. For comparison, in my graduate programs, I saw where the professor gave the undergrad courses the short stick because they were very focused on the graduate research. A solid undergraduate education lets our Prescott students go to industry or pursue a graduate education and get the most out of professors there.