By Leslie Jernegan
John Considine, a materials research engineer with the Forest Products Laboratory on UW–Madison’s campus, is an exemplary model of academic determination.
Almost 30 years ago, after finishing his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UW–Madison and assuming a position at the Forest Products Laboratory, Considine decided to pursue his PhD But, due to exterior hardships, he not only had to forfeit his studies, but also his job.
Now, with his PhD completed and his job recovered, Considine positively reflects, “It all worked out. Things happen. It’s what you do with them.”
What did Considine do to successfully return to his studies?
As advice for any student, Considine, for one, stresses the importance of gaining hands-on experience. As an undergraduate who enjoyed studying engineering, but who feared the possibility of not enjoying it in practice, Considine reaffirmed his passion for the field by participating in building equipment for professors, and by participating in research with a PhD student.
Considine notes another aid in his studies: mentors. As his mentor, the PhD student with whom Considine worked helped him realize a career path in paper physics that Considine didn’t know existed, and even guided him towards a student engineering job with the same company he currently works for today.
“I listened for opportunities … You’ve got to ask … It’s not going to hurt to ask to be a part of something.”
A final (and, for Considine, surprising) tool for graduate students: becoming a TA. Although he was nervous about becoming one, Considine found teaching pleasurable and useful.
“If you can teach a subject, you really have to know it,” he says. “It’s interesting how that preparation that I learned in preparing lectures as a TA has helped me in making presentations for a broad range of scientific offices.”
Today with his PhD in materials science, Considine is finishing his research on the use of the Virtual Fields Method for stiffness identification in thin web materials, which was research he did for his professional as well as his scholastic work.
Enjoying his career, Considine hopes to continue using the lessons from his research on paper, and later apply it to wood. Desiring to continue experimenting, Considine expresses his lifelong goal and pleasure of continuing to learn.
“You’re either green and growing, or ripe and rotting,” he says. “I’d like to keep on that green side.”