From prototyping to manufacturing biomedical devices, Dallas Drapal — a University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) mechanical engineering May 2020 graduate — has directly supported projects for Department of Defense agencies during his experience in the Nebraska Terry Research Laboratory through the National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI).
Now he moves on from real-world, resume-building experiences to a real-world job.
“I am excited to graduate and move into the next phase of my life, but the current Covid-19 situation has made it challenging,” Drapal said. “However, because of my experiences here at UNL, I am very confident I have the skills and knowledge to navigate these troubling times.”
Since fall 2018, Drapal has worked on devices used for sample collection and sample partitioning as well as devices used in a lab setting for experimentation. The prototyping and manufacturing done in the Terry Research Lab is purposeful, often leading to valuable functioning devices for end users who are oftentimes U.S. warfighters.
Drapal credits Ben Terry, associate professor of mechanical engineering, Matthew Newman, research assistant, and Gabriel Lucero, NSRI senior research engineer, for providing him an incredible opportunity — an undergraduate lab experience that involved multiple disciplines working together to create tangible products for real-world customers.
“I have greatly improved my skills as a machinist and as a design engineer,” Drapal said. “Also my technical communication with other engineers and management has greatly improved. The projects I have worked on have broadened my view of what is achievable for mechanical engineers.”
Having worked with the now-graduate for two years, Lucero said there is no doubt Drapal will be successful throughout his career.
“Dallas is very dynamic, which makes him adaptable,” Lucero said. “His engineering skill set is portable and amendable, which can suit various types of science and technology occupations. He has shown devotion to meeting project deliverables, while ensuring quality production and a professional attitude in the pursuit.”
Unique opportunities, a supportive lab environment and experienced mentors provided Drapal with a head start for his career, and his contributions to several deliverables across NSRI projects are important for the institute and its customers.
“The amount of exposure to real projects is tremendous,” Drapal said. “Working for NSRI definitely sets you as an undergraduate ahead of others in skill, responsibility, dependability and experience.
“Working for NSRI is an excellent way for students to build their foundation as capable engineers.”