Max Wilson is a mechanical engineer working on the Natrium Advanced Reactor Demonstration Project in Virginia, U.S. A graduate of Queen’s University, he joined Bechtel in 2016 as a summer intern and returned full time in 2019.
What was your first exposure with engineering?
Since I was young, I have always been fascinated with figuring out how to engineer “things”. Whether it was building a city with Legos or attempting to build a toothpick bridge that could hold the weight of a textbook, my desire to understand how things around me worked never ceased. However, my first introduction to engineering truly came from my grandfather. At the age of ten, I got to spend two weeks with him at his house in Kingston, Ontario. During those two weeks, we worked on a plethora of mini-engineering projects around the property including building shelves, restoring a deck, and even fixing a pump that provided water to the house. In the short term, I was captivated to see how my grandfather systematically approached, and eventually solved, each problem. In the long run, the beneficial impact that solving these problems had helped me realize that engineering solutions can really make a difference in people’s lives. As I moved through my education and eventually into an engineering degree, it became continuously clearer how fulfilling and impactful a career as an engineer could be.
What’s the coolest part of your job?
There are several aspects of my job as a Mechanical Systems Engineer that I really enjoyed: Developing and implementing innovative technologies, managing a diverse work portfolio, and having the opportunity to solve complex problems (just to name a few).
With that in mind, the coolest part of my job are the people I work with. The ability to connect with some of the brightest people from across the U.S. is an extremely unique opportunity and is one I don’t take for granted. For example, the Natrium team consists of colleagues from three exceptional engineering companies. Not only have I had the chance to collaborate with colleagues across all three companies, but I have also been able to learn from them every day. Forming relationships with smart, interesting, and driven people is something I have found to be consistent in the engineering industry and is something I look forward to experiencing for the rest of my career.
It’s 2042 – how has the profession reimagined the possible?
In 2042, I hope to see progress towards a future where the majority, if not all, of energy is created via carbon free pathways (nuclear energy, renewable energy, etc.). There is a growing global demand for carbon free energy and I believe engineering will play a vital role in helping meet that demand. My current project, an advanced reactor demonstration project, has fueled my interest to help engineer viable carbon free energy solutions and I hope the engineering industry continues to tackle those issues moving forward.
What makes you proud to be an engineer?
I’m proud to be an engineer because of the potential lasting impact I could have on a local, regional, or global scale. The idea of being able to take part in something that could make the world a better place gives me an immense sense of fulfillment. Specifically, engineering projects that result in progress towards a carbon neutral future are ones I am particularly prideful of.
Why should today’s students consider an engineering career?
There are countless reasons why today’s students should consider a career in engineering. Engineering not only allows you to have an impact on some of the world’s largest and most complex challenges, but it gives you the opportunity to meet extraordinary people along the way. Additionally, a career in engineering provides the opportunity to learn how to become a problem solver which can be applied across different industries and different facets of everyday life.
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