What is your current position?
Just recently, I got assigned to be the Managing Director of FRIGOBLOCK, which is a 200 person company producing transport refrigeration systems from trucks in Europe. We cool any temperature sensitive products such as perishable goods, pharma products and electronic hardware. Frigoblock was bought by Thermo King in 2015. Together, we are the leading Transport Refrigeration Company in the world.
Frigoblock was bought because of its in-house developed electrification technology connecting the tractor engine to the refrigeration system with a generator-inverter combo. This may sound simple – but it is hard engineering work to be reliable and have the ability for integration into the truck. This generator-inverter combo gave us a market lead in capacity and efficiency.
Besides managing the company and all of its functions, I am also responsible to institute a global technology center around electrification and hybridization focusing on energy management, electrical storage, OEM relationship with the truck industry.
Until recently, I was the Chief Engineer at Thermo King. Thermo King is a company within Ingersoll Rand.
How did your degree from the College of Engineering prepare you for your career?
There are two stories: When I started to study at the University, I came from Germany – and my intention was to do the least possible to pass the class. I was not aware of homework (in Germany, you don’t get a grade for homework), I was not attending class, and I missed a few mid-terms. Four or five weeks into my first term, a professor picked on me, asking critical question: “Why do you not attend class? Why don’t you submit homework? You will not pass my class.” This was done in a very friendly and respectful manner, but changed completely my attitude towards engineering. Up to this point, I was “managing my talent,” but was not really hard-working at all. To make a long story short: Compared to German Universities, the University of Nevada, Reno is an excellent place where you get well educated professors not only working with the student, but also caring about their performance. In Germany it is different. You come to the finals and get the grade you deserve, but you are on your own to succeed.
The second story is about learning the important step advancing from single functional class terms such as heat transfer, thermo dynamics (get the basics right!) to cross-functional team assignments during senior classes. In the beginning of these classes, I had a hard time getting motivated for project management, team-oriented performance, collaboration, task assignments for team members and applying what you have learned in previous classes – but this is reality! We engineers need to make things happen! Reflecting on my life as a student, these aspects could be much more emphasized as cross functional problem solving with adherence to a time table is where the rubber hits the road.
What was your most memorable experience as a student in the College?
The senior project together with Robb Lee (another “ME warrior”), when we realized what we had to do over the next 72 hours in order to finish the project. We worked around the clock for multiple day and aced the exam with 100%. When we turned our exam in, we weren’t tired, because we knew that we did great work – so we smiled.
What is the most satisfying project you’ve worked on as an engineer?
There are multiple ones:
- I was in a team designing the afterburner of the Military Joint-Strike Fighter engine. We designed a scaled down flame holder, which we tested with vitiated flow addressing noise, vibration, heat of combustion, flame speed, and flame stability, and converted into 1:1 dimensions. It was very exciting to see the actual performance at the Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) in Tennessee. Don’t ask about the development cost and what it would have meant if the testing was not successful.
- I was in the core team to engineer a combined cooling, heating and power plant including 6 micro-turbines (360kW) and an absorption chiller (160RT). The first unit was installed in the newly established Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, CA.
- I was the project leader for developing the first standardized system for commercial refrigeration using CO2 as the natural refrigerant. Today, this is an approximately €300-400M business in Europe, with double digit growth rate. It makes me really proud, as we convinced the market with a technical approach based on better efficiency and making the world a better place. From a CO2 emissions point of view, establishing a supermarket using CO2 instead of R404A is equal to getting rid of 50-100 cars purely by increase of efficiency, considering the current energy mix within Germany.
- Now I am working on…. Stay tuned!
What do you enjoy most about your career in engineering?
I enjoy working in a global company by visiting different countries and working with different cultural backgrounds. I enjoy making a difference in the world and letting the engineering finesse and superior design make the talk through data and facts instead of opinion and politics. On top - if you work within a team with great skills and motivation – this is the best job combination I can think of. I am also a big believer in work and play balance, but the best test you can do on your job is, whenever you come home elate from work. If you are still full of energy, you know that you like what you do.
What advice would you give to current or prospective students in your field of engineering?
You are your own master of your own destiny. Never give up on learning. Be a growth-minded person who focuses on your own process or learning curve. In the long run, good, but lazy talent will not survive – and will dwell in their own glorious past. Don’t be shy to ask questions – only good questions will lead to good answers, where you learn from.
If there are some obstacles in your career (you have a bad boss, or you don’t like to project you are on) – be patient. A good company is always interested to let you excel where you do best. Ask for these assignments.
From the Great Wall of China to electric cars, engineers have created some pretty impressive stuff. In your opinion, what is the coolest feat of engineering?
Wow – that is a hard question!
From a mechanical engineering point of view, and to address the world we want to live in, I would consider electrification as my choice number 1, and I am saying this not only from a power generation point of view. Recent developments in energy split, management and storage, transmission and telematics will enable us to not only supply energy to points where it is needed, but also give us incredible means to insert electrified products in every corner of our life to improve our quality of life: electric cars, micro-grids with renewable energy sources, mobile phones connected to remote HVAC, cars, and power plants using freely available, low exergy energy sources being converted into useful energy/work.
Of course, as an engineer, cars are fascinating. Just recently, I was allowed to drive a Porsche GT3-RS with 500hp. The ability to accelerate from 0-60mph in 3.3sec in a controlled straight line, without any hesitation and an actual feeling of comfort is a result of great engineering work! However, I will not answer the question, whether or not everyone should have this type of car.