An interview with a graduate: Ambar Sarup, BS '21, MEng Dec. '22
Ambar Sarup is originally from Mussoorie, UUttarakhand, India. He earned a B.S. in '21 and an MEng in December '22. Recently, he relocated to Vero Beach, Florida to start a job at Piper Aircraft.
What course/professor/other helped you choose your specialty?
There are so many people from the Dept. of Aerospace Engineering and The Grainger College of Engineering who have in some way helped me move forward and make that decision it would take the next two pages to name them all. All the professors, advisors, technical/lab, administrative staff, and alumni that I have interacted with have had a role to play. For that, each one has my profound gratitude.
What did you do/learn from working on your senior design project?
My senior design project for the aerospace systems design class was one of the best overall learning experiences I could have. Not only was it a culmination of the last four years of learning, but it was also an eye-opener to the intricacies of balancing compromises in practical aircraft design. The project also truly taught me about working as a cohesive team to achieve a result. Finally, it was a test of fortitude, persistence, and perseverance, after the successful completion of which there was no turning back.
Did you have any internships? Where? What did you do?
I had an internship in 2019 at Tata Advanced Systems Ltd., a large tier 1 supplier to major aerospace original equipment manufacturers including Airbus, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin. I was able to work on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief swarm UAVs. I also got to work on designing avionics mounts for a light aircraft. Overall, it was a great experience that I’m grateful for.
What extracurricular experience stands out as memorable for you?
There are quite a few extracurricular experiences that are memorable for me. The sheer number of diverse activities and opportunities one can participate in is unimaginable, be it in terms of RSOs, performances at Krannert, or even ad-hoc groups working on something of common interest.
However, my time and experience at the student chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics stands out in particular. I was able to learn a lot, contribute some, and had the privilege of serving as a board member for all four of my undergrad years. But above all, I met extraordinary people, many of whom I am happy to call friends.
What made you decide to get a master’s degree?
I always sort of knew that I wanted at least a master’s degree. It would give me the opportunity to learn more and specialize in a field of my choosing. A master’s degree would also open up more potential career paths.
Why at Illinois?
The university has a great reputation the world over for producing top-of-the-line research caliber engineers, and for having incredible facilities. Additionally, UIUC has great connections with industry. But the determining factor was the professors par excellence, who spared no effort or time in making sure that their students acquired the requisite understanding and competency of the subject, as I was fortunate to experience during my undergrad here.
Why did you choose an MEng rather than an MS?
Although similar in many ways, I chose the MEng in Aerospace Systems Engineering because it allowed me the flexibility to follow the path that I wanted to take. In addition to the two superbly taught systems engineering classes, the final practicum at the end of the program was an excellent way to work on solving pressing issues in industry using a multi-disciplinary approach. Additionally, I was able to take other classes including on design for six sigma, reliability engineering, and business for engineering applications, all concepts that are becoming increasingly relevant in engineering.
Describe your MEng project along with any unusual challenges/breakthroughs.
My MEng practicum was a systems engineering study of the application of hybrid electric propulsion to business aviation. The field of hybrid electric propulsion is rather large, and includes aspects of powerplant design, energy storage systems design, power off-take, generation and distribution electronics, and heat transfer systems to name just a few. There are the considerations of conventional aircraft design to account for as well. Although a lot of incredible work has and continues to be done for hybrid electric air mobility vehicles, regional transport aircraft, and large passenger transport aircraft, very little published material exists for the niche business aviation segment.
My project specifically focused on determining the optimal engine architecture and hybridization ratio for a potential HEP Gulfstream G500, with due consideration given to the aforementioned elements of hybrid electric propulsion and aircraft design as required by any good systems engineering study.
I was able to find a feasible solution that achieves similar performance to the conventionally powered G500 at 80 percent of the maximum range by 2040. Although my project was specifically for Gulfstream, the conclusions can be extrapolated to any similar sized and similar performance business jet. I look forward to the eventual publication of my study.
How did you get the job at Piper Aircraft?
Truth be told, I really wasn’t expecting to hear back with a job offer from Piper. As a smaller company with only about 1,100 employees, Piper does not recruit much outside Florida. My interview for the job also began with technical issues, so definitely not a great start. However, I believe three elements worked out in my favor. First and foremost, the university’s excellent reputation for producing good engineers as recognized by my interviewer. Second, experience relevant to the job position, a significant amount of which was gained from classes and participation in AIAA technical projects at the university. And lastly, a lot of luck.
What will you be doing in your new job at Piper?
My new job at Piper is rather interesting, if I may say so. I am currently a Structural Design Engineer and am working on improvements to the airframe of the venerable Piper Cherokee (now called the Archer), a design which dates to the 1960s. These refinements to the structure make use of modern CAD/CAM methods to produce parts with complex geometries to exacting accuracy and precision. I am fortunate to join just as new tooling is taking shape and be able to contribute to the next few decades of Piper Archer production. In the near future, I expect to be working on designing some of the first 3D printed secondary structures for an FAA-approved aircraft using Selective Laser Sintering, so that is quite exciting.
Do you have other career goals?
Well that’s a really hard question. Currently, I do not have a very good answer either. Having just joined the aerospace industry in a full-time capacity, I am getting to see numerous aspects of the business. Lots of roles are interesting, and each vital to the production of an aircraft. At some point I would like to transition to a more top-down position that enables me to contribute more as a dedicated systems engineer.
What’s on your bucket list of must-dos for the next 5 years?
Plenty on the bucket list—but hopefully getting my private pilot license and instrument rating by then.
What advice would you like to share with AE undergrads?
Hard to share advice, as I have myself just recently graduated. However, there is no doubt that an AE degree from the University of Illinois is highly regarded in industry. That reputation has been created by those before us, and one must strive to carry forward the same repute for those after. The program we have is no doubt challenging, in one of the hardest fields, but once you persist through, everything thereafter seems just a bit more doable. Finally, partake in as many extra-curricular events and opportunities you can. Few places can equal what’s available at UIUC.