Engineering Alumni Spotlight: John Brennan

John BrennanAs a research chemical engineer at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, John Brennan, Ph.D. ’98, is responsible for improving the performance of Army technology from a much smaller, but no less important, vantage point. His knowledge of how energetic materials — those associated with explosives and propellants — behave at the microscale enable the builders of these resources to ensure optimal performance. Brennan’s experiences here and abroad offer invaluable insight to current Wayne State University students in chemical engineering and other disciplines.


Can you please describe your career path?

I graduated from Oakland University with a B.S. in engineering chemistry before entering the Department of Chemical Engineering graduate program at Wayne State. After graduating from WSU, I was a post-doctoral research associate at the Institut de Recherché sur la Catalyse (CNRS) in Lyon, France.  I then took another post-doctoral research position with Professor Keith E. Gubbins in the Department of Chemical Engineering at North Carolina State University.  Since 2003, I have worked as a researcher in the Weapons and Materials Research Directorate at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory on the Aberdeen Proving Ground in northeast Maryland.  In 2015, I was a visiting scientist at the Commissariat à l'énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives (CEA) in Arpajon, France.


Describe the ways you’ve stayed connected to WSU since graduation.

I’ve participated in the College of Engineering Industry Mentor Program since 2017. I really enjoy my experience interacting with the Wayne State students and appreciate the opportunity to give back to the college.


What are your hobbies and interests?

I have three school aged children, so mostly their hobbies and interests have become my hobbies and interests. J  But I played varsity soccer at OU, so I try to stay active with my kids playing soccer and doing other physical activities.


Why did you choose to attend Wayne State?

My initial interest was in the chemical engineering graduate program, but I was also attracted to the university’s reputation for research in many areas of science, engineering and medicine.


List any student organizations or teams you were part of at Wayne State.

I was inducted into the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor society as a graduate student at Wayne State.


How did your education at Wayne State prepare you for what you are doing today?

I use the concepts and knowledge that I learned in my core courses daily. My Ph.D. work provided me with a foundation in computational modeling and simulation, which I have built upon during each step of my career.


Who influenced you the most during your time at Wayne State?

My Ph.D. advisor William Madden influenced me the most. I’m indebted to him for his support and patience, as well as for the knowledge and advice that he passed on to me during my time at Wayne State.


What is the most important thing you learned at Wayne State?

Lean on others for mentoring and advice, and take advantage of the knowledge and experience of those around you.


What advice do you have for current students who want to make the most out of their experience at Wayne State?

I would recommend taking advantage of internship opportunities in the metro Detroit area. Having lived outside of the area since 1998, I’ve come to realize that there are many diverse engineering opportunities in the area. Internships provide opportunities to begin building personal relationships, but also to experience work environments, responsibilities and duties that one may enjoy, but as equally important, not enjoy.

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