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Engineer Returns to Ohio State to Take on New Challenges

Dennis KibalamaFor Dennis Kibalama, engineering is about the thrill of solving complex problems.  “[I am] someone who is interested in day-to-day engineering and problem solving and applying myself to solve complex problems with existing or even new and novel techniques,” he says. “So, I felt that a career change into a research space and also potentially pursuing a PhD would help me further that goal.”

Kibalama earned his master’s degree at The Ohio State University before returning to his native Uganda to work with Kiira Motors. Now, he is back at Ohio State to work with The Center for Automotive Research (CAR).

Kibalama explains that an established research entity like CAR has numerous advantages for a researcher, namely ready access to funding, long-standing partnerships in industry, and connecting innovative academics to industrial applications. “At CAR, you have a direct correlation with professors and people who are actually in academia, [so it] bridges the gap between academia and real-world scenarios. It basically provides a pipeline from academia to industry, from classroom to real world.”

Working at CAR allows Kibalama to connect his own student experience to new research projects. Kibalama was a member of the award-winning EcoCAR 3 motorsports team, which redesigned a Chevrolet Camaro to lessen its environmental impact without sacrificing performance. Fuel efficiency and performance remain important to Kibalama’s current research efforts with the ARPA-E NEXTCAR project. The project aims to improve fuel economy by 20% while optimizing travel time for connected and automated vehicles.  It’s a challenging project, but Kibalama doesn’t shy away from challenges. They’re his favorite part of working at CAR.

“There’s always a complex problem, and it’s a pain to find a solution, right? But the joy and gratification you get when you have solved the problem and you see results, you have done something in simulation and then you go out to the test track and you test that and the data matches up, it’s like, wow. That is pretty good,” he says. “It’s just a satisfaction that you have a holistic understanding of the system, and that just makes me pretty happy, at the end. It makes all the work worth it.”

Written by Georgia Drost, CAR Writing Intern