From K-State to CReSIS to Honeywell, Jay McDaniel Always Wants to Learn More

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By Rachel James McCarthy
Spring 2015

Jay McDaniel’s love of engineering runs deep. “Where most dads teach their sons the quality of guns and fishing gear, my dad was teaching me the quality of tube amps,” McDaniel says. He grew up a self-described “simple kid” from a small farm town called Silver Lake, Kansas. As a teenager, he took classes at a technical college and planned on becoming an electrician.

Jay McDaniel in the Twin Otter Aircraft. | Credit: Courtesy of Jay McDaniel

“It wasn’t until about three weeks before I graduated from high school that I actually planned on going to college,” McDaniel said. “I’d never really thought of it… I’d always had that drive, but it wasn’t until right before I graduated that I thought, hey, this is something I want to do.” McDaniel, who participated on the math and scholar’s bowl team, was recruited by a K-State engineering ambassador for their electrical engineering program.

During his bachelor’s in semiconductor physics and integrated circuits (IC) design 2013, McDaniel did two internships with Honeywell Federal Manufacturing & Technology working in their radar department. There, former CReSIS student Kyle Byers tipped him off to the work done at CReSIS. McDaniel was already thinking of going to graduate school.

“The two fit perfectly together,” McDaniel said of his educational plans and CReSIS research. McDaniel worked with Dr. Stephen Yan, Assistant Research Professor at CReSIS, on a Navy Research Laboratory Project. “My primary goal was the design, integration, and miniaturization of a multi-channel 2-18 GHz FMCW receiver.”

McDaniel’s work with Dr. Yan led to one big moment on March 1, 2015 in Barrow, Alaska, when the Twin Otter took off with the new system. “The prior year and a half was just constant work. Blood, sweat, and tears,” McDaniel said of his last spring break. “It was never-ending buildup. Finally, not only did I get to see [my research] used in action, but it worked and we got good data!”

McDaniel received his Masters of Science in radar system design and applied electromagnetics in May 2015. He returned to Honeywell FM&T in a new position as a radar engineer serving as the lead product engineer on all development receiver designs. “What do the future radars look like? What do we want these to become? How do we want them to work?” McDaniel asks himself, while also being a lead RF engineer on some of Honeywell’s plant driven research and development projects.

“Going to graduate school in general was the best thing I could have done for my career,” McDaniel said. “The work I did here at CReSIS [put me] in a completely different ballpark. During my research here, I did everything from theory, to design, to actual fabrication and assembly, and testing. I saw the entire stage of taking something from an idea to an actual product. Translating that type of experience and knowledge into industry is absolutely crucial. It can also put you on an accelerated career path”

Jay McDaniel in Barrow, Alaska. | Credit: Courtesy of Jay McDaniel

Looking to the future, McDaniel says, “I would like to maintain [my position] at Honeywell and grow with the company, making my way up the engineering path.” McDaniel is also planning an October wedding to his fiancée Kathryn Zalenski. In the long term, he is hoping to return to school to get his Ph.D. “I will say it: I’m a nerd. I always want to learn more.”

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