Engineering Graduate Combines Dreams

December 9, 2020 | Graduate News, News, UToday, Advancement, Alumni, Engineering
By Diana Van Winkle

The University of Toledo College of Engineering is where Sean Dunphy saw his dreams come true.

“I have dreamed of working on space exploration and at Disney World since I was a kid and I had the opportunity to do both thanks to the College of Engineering’s mandatory co-op program,” Dunphy said. “I worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on three technology development projects creating prototypes for new space hardware. I worked at Disney in the parks as an attractions cast member at Flight of Passage and as a design and engineering co-op. I got to work on some amazing attractions and on the monorail.”

Graduation Cap

CELEBRATING SUCCESS: During this time when we cannot come together to celebrate our graduates, UToledo is recognizing the Class of 2020 with a series of feature stories on students who received their degrees during our Dec. 6 virtual commencement ceremony.

Dunphy graduated with a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering Dec. 6 and will take this experience with him in his new position as a starship build engineer with SpaceX in Brownsville, Texas.

He credits his hands-on learning experiences with positioning him for success, specifically working in Dr. Brian Trease’s research lab working on projects to help mitigate algae blooms on Lake Erie.

“I got to learn hands-on engineering skills,” Dunphy said. “He also recommended me for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and was the reason I was able to get that first co-op. He was a mentor throughout my time at UToledo, and without his support I wouldn’t be where I am now.”

In addition to his strong academics, research and co-op experience, Dunphy also has been involved in the College of Engineering’s Robotic Mining Competition Team that designs and builds robots to compete in the annual NASA Robotic Mining Competition at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Dr. Brian Trease, assistant professor in the Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering Department, said recruiting Dunphy into his research group was one of the best decisions he made early on at UToledo.


“He is the most tenacious undergrad I have worked with — smart, quick, resourceful, curious and passionate about his projects,” Trease said.

Dunphy became a quick go-to person for numerous tasks for Trease and was active in designing aquatic robots, working on aerial drones and attending conferences with the faculty member to present his design of an inverted robot for testing space structures.

“Freshmen arrive with big ideas and so much excitement. I now see them inspired by Sean’s journey, seeking to dare their own mighty things,” Trease said. “Sean expanded my sights so that I don’t overlook these younger students because they might possess that same raw hunger and initiative needed to tackle new research ideas. We’ll certainly miss Sean here, in my lab and in the College, but are eager to track his exciting career.”

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