Initially, I think I want to go back into the industry for some amount of time but, eventually, I would like to go back into academia and teach and continue doing research.
Janel Niska, a Chicago-area native with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Iowa State University (‘15), is a first year mechanical engineering PhD student and graduate research assistant for the Center for Environmental Energy Engineering’s Energy Efficiency and Heat Pumps (EEHP) research group.
“I always knew I wanted to go into science,” Niska said citing her father, an engineer himself, as inspiration. “As a kid I always had this funny vision of myself mixing chemicals together like a mad scientist so now, when I mix the refrigerants and water in the lab, a part of me is excited like, yes! I fulfilled that dream!”
Niska began her career in the engineering industry in 2015 focusing on thermal performance and heat exchangers, first with Alliant Energy and then for Honeywell. After three years, Niska decided to go back to school to pursue her PhD, a goal she said she always had for herself. Her industry experience established a solid foundation for her transition to CEEE.
Initially when looking into graduate programs, Niska didn’t know what she wanted to research specifically, but she knew she wanted to do something with energy and thermodynamics. When looking into different research groups at Maryland, CEEE was recommended to her by everyone she spoke to. After meeting with Dr. Yunho Hwang, a CEEE co-director and faculty research advisor, she knew that it was a good fit for her.
Her current research project is titled, “Heat Transfer Coefficient.” The project is still in its early stages but she is researching different heat transfer coefficients of different tube inner-geometries.
“We are trying to see if we can improve the heat transfer by making different geometries on the inside of the tube,” she said.
Despite only being in the first year of her PhD program, Janel is already looking to her future goals.
“Initially, I think I want to go back into the industry for some amount of time but, eventually, I would like to go back into academia and teach and continue doing research,” she said.
Outside of engineering, her biggest hobby is competing in triathlons. While living in Iowa she also participated in RAGBRAI, which is an annual charitable bike ride that spans the state of Iowa and commits to donating money raised to local nonprofits. She is also a devoted cat mom to an orange leash-trained cat named Georgy and also enjoys reading, watching youtube or finding local events “to keep life fun.”