Passion for fighting climate change inspires career choices

Posted: April 5, 2022
David Perez

David Perez joined CAR as a research associate engineer just three short months ago, but is already making his mark. This self-proclaimed life-long learner is not only advancing his education but passing on his knowledge to current students.

 What did you do before coming to Ohio State?

“I graduated from MIT in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science with a specialization in synthetic biology and advanced robotics. These aren’t fields that have a whole lot of overlap, but both were interesting to me!

Even though I did little software as an undergrad, my first job was as a software engineer at Oracle. I spent two and a half years there before I took a position with Google as a software reliability engineer. It’s a specialization that focuses on keeping systems stable. A lot of people take for granted products like Gmail or Google Search. When these systems are unavailable, people lose their minds! It was my job to minimize downtime.

What brought you to CAR?
“I derive a lot of my motivation for my work from my passions and a big one for me is fighting climate change. In my efforts to figure out how better to fight climate change, I was doing all the personal stuff like composting and recycling and trying to eat mostly vegetarian or vegan and taking public transit, etc. But I wanted my actual 40-hour a week job to have more of a direct effect. I decided that the best sort of place to find that marriage between working on environmentalism and engineering was in the electrification of everything, specifically energy storage and battery technology.

I didn't have much experience in that field. I started looking for labs that were working on EV research with good industry connections and good opportunities for further education. CAR had a need for a software specialist, and the match was too perfect to pass up.”

What excites you about engineering?
I am an engineer in that I like to make cool stuff! Part of my responsibility at Google and Oracle was being on call when things broke. I'd be the person there fighting a fire. And I really enjoyed that aspect! But as I've gotten older, I've liked fighting fires less and I like when things go according to plan a little bit more. I really love it when I build a system model and it just matches the data we’ve collected! Finding a problem, developing a model and testing, I really enjoy that! To me, that’s what the spirit of engineering is!”

What are you currently working on?
“I’m working on several different projects which is one of the things I really love about CAR. They're all slightly different and I’m really enjoying learning all sorts of cool new stuff.

I’m also co-advising the new Buckeye AutoDrive team. I was sitting in on a meeting and noticed they were missing a software engineer, so I was happy to fill in that role.

I love learning new things, and one of the great things about working here is that there’s just so much exposure to different disciplines within the automotive world that you could work here forever and learn something new every day! I think that's fairly unique. I've never worked in academia before, so maybe that's normal, but for someone who's only ever worked in industry, this is very refreshing and very exciting!”

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
“I’m a lifelong learner, but whenever I'm learning something new it's not like my next question is ‘what's the next thing to learn?’ My next question is always ‘how do I apply this, how do I make that useful?’ So, even though I love being a student and learning, I think that, at my core, I'm more of an engineer. Even within engineering, I think I lean a little bit more towards the business side of thing; I want to take things beyond just solving the problem; I’d also like to take it to market.”

What do you like doing outside of work?
“I have a lot of different interests! I like to play. My free time is mostly spent board games and video games and sports like tennis and frisbee. I recently joined some of the Ohio State dance crews. I’m a horrible dancer but it’s a lot of fun! I also love to travel, some of my favorite destinations are Austria and Japan.”

Category: Research