For Dr. Jesse Hoagg, coming to the University of Kentucky after three years in the business world is a homecoming of sorts. That is not to say Dr. Hoagg is a native Kentuckian; rather, joining UK’s Department of Mechanical Engineering as an assistant professor signals a return to two of Dr. Hoagg’s passions: teaching and research, specifically control systems research.
Interest in dynamics and control systems has led Dr. Hoagg to research projects in industries such as aerospace, automotive, robotics, and energy. What are control systems? “In essence, control systems design involves getting engineered products as well as other aspects of our environment to behave in a desired manner. Consider, for example, your car’s cruise control: how do you get a car to automatically increase the throttle, that is, give the engine more gas, when the car’s speed falls below a certain level? That’s a simple example of a feedback control system. I strive to develop control methods that can be applied to a broad range of problems. I’m interested in such problems as how to control an aircraft if it undergoes failure; perhaps an aircraft’s rudder gets stuck, and the aircraft’s current control system may not be designed to handle that failure.”
Dr. Hoagg’s interest in control systems grew out of his undergraduate studies in civil and environmental engineering. “I worked in a lab researching vibration control for earthquakes, and that experience introduced me to control systems. I realized that I wanted to study controls in graduate school.” This study led him to master’s degrees in aerospace engineering and mathematics, as well as a Ph.D in aerospace engineering from the University of Michigan.
Whereas many new Ph.D graduates dive into post-doctoral work, Dr. Hoagg took a job with McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm. As a consultant, he advised companies across several industries, including biomedical and engineering companies. He believes the experience aids him in his current role as professor. “That job provided me with insight into the ways companies think about development and how to use research in a profitable way.”
Over time, however, Dr. Hoagg wanted to return to the academic world. In 2009, he left McKinsey for post-doctoral work at the University of Michigan. Explaining the reason for this switch, he says, “I missed innovation. I missed working on new ideas and research. I missed the academic environment of learning and teaching.”
Following his post-doctoral studies, Dr. Hoagg was hired as a faculty member of UK’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, where he feels quite at home. “Our faculty has a great breadth of expertise, and our facilities are top-notch,” he says. Of equal importance, being at UK has given Dr. Hoagg an opportunity to teach. “I like when something clicks for a student, when the student gets a concept for the first time and the light comes on.”
Research and teaching: for Dr. Jesse Hoagg, they are part of a passion brought full circle and UK students are reaping the benefits.