Alumni Spotlight: Christopher Poresky, PhD ENG’15

“There is no way I’d be where I am without my Rutgers education. Rutgers was a fantastic place to learn the fundamentals of problem-solving.” Chris Poresky

Christopher (Chris) Poresky graduated from the School of Engineering in 2015 with a B.S. in mechanical engineering, with a focus on energy systems and control. He also minored in German. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was a Department of Energy Integrated University Program Fellow in the Department of Nuclear Engineering’s Thermal Hydraulics group. He currently maintains a visiting scholar position in the Berkeley lab, where he continues to mentor students and help guide research. He was recently promoted to senior engineer on the instrumentation, controls, and electrical team at Kairos Power in Alameda, California.

Why engineering?

I decided to study engineering because I was eager to do something that would materially improve people’s lives and make the world a better place. I liked math and wanted a career that could be creative.

What drew you to mechanical engineering?

Mechanical engineering, in particular, stuck out to me because it’s such a fundamental discipline that informs the design of all of our tools and machines. It seemed like the most “engineering” engineering there could be.

What are your responsibilities as senior engineer at Kairos Power?

I’ve been working there since July 2019. There was a little bit of overlap while I finished my dissertation. My dissertation advisor cofounded the company.

I work on the Instrumentation, Controls, and Electrical team. Our company is focused on the design and deployment of an advanced nuclear reactor technology that aims to be cost competitive with natural gas in the United States electricity market. I lead the control room design, industrial networking, and plant health monitoring for our power plant design, and I am also implementing process control algorithms for some plant subsystems.

What motivates you?

I am primarily motivated by our mission – to enable the world’s transition to clean energy, with the ultimate goal of dramatically improving people’s quality of life while protecting the environment.

I love that the work I do combines empathy and an understanding of human behavior with analytical thinking and the ability to predict the behavior of mechanical, thermal, and fluid systems. In some ways, I feel that both my motivation and my responsibilities exhibit some optimism that we really can have the best of both worlds.

What do you most enjoy about your work?

The most important thing to me is that I do what I can to achieve my mission: help to eliminate the adverse public health impacts all around us that are occurring in real time and disproportionately to marginalized people. I’d like to believe that I have the greatest impact where I am right now, but I also want to empower others to contribute and become decision-makers.

Do you have any other goals for the future?

I’d like to continue to teach and mentor others as much as possible, and would love to help build professional education and career programs in academia and beyond.

What do you value most about your Rutgers education?

Of course, there is no way I’d be where I am without my Rutgers education. Rutgers was a fantastic place to learn the fundamentals of problem-solving. It’s where I learned to approach problems with curiosity and persistence – and to believe that there are always solutions. I also think that Rutgers instills a sense of self-dependence that is essential when navigating life after graduation.

Is there a course that impacted you the most?

The course that left the most lasting impression on me was the dynamics course taught by Professor William Bottega. It had a graduate school flavor to it and made me throw out my preconceived notions of how to learn a subject. It’s really the class that gave me the confidence to be a creative engineer.

Do you have any advice for students thinking about studying mechanical engineering?

I don’t know if I’m qualified yet to give much advice, but I will say that mechanical engineering is a very broad subject. It gives you the tools to do nearly anything. Be gracious to yourself as you envision where these skills might be applied. You have a whole lot of options and I’m sure you will be able to find something you love.