Faces of Vanderbilt Engineering: Alan Jeskey, engineer, Laboratory for Systems Integrity and Reliability

Nashville’s Metro Center, an 850-acre complex in the bend of the Cumberland River just 13 blocks from downtown, is the home of the school’s largest lab, the Laboratory for Systems Integrity and Reliability. The 20,000 square foot LASIR space houses an electrohydraulic vehicle simulator, a military helicopter, a cross section of a wind turbine blade, a wind tunnel, and suite of material and environmental test machines. For help with their LASIR projects, faculty members turn to Alan Jeskey, the lab’s on-site engineer.

My main responsibility is to assist in the operation of Vanderbilt’s Laboratory for Systems Integrity and Reliability. As the on-site full-time engineer, it is my responsibility to design and build test rigs, acquire research data, enforce safety standards, and generally assist Vanderbilt research faculty who have projects within the LASIR space, a large high-bay facility that has state-of-the-art instrumentation for conducting realistic experiments for application in the energy, security, and manufacturing sectors.

At this facility we conduct a variety of non-destructive testing on real, or near-real, scale models to best mimic actual conditions. Additionally, many of our projects are complex and multidisciplinary which requires expertise in a variety of fields, and cooperation between multiple field experts. For example, we are currently developing a biofidelic, human head form for modeling brain exposure to high blast pressures. Another project we are conducting involves the use of flash thermography on carbon fiber components for the detection of deep seeded defects of rocket components. I have so far assisted in designing a rolling test rig for larger rocket components, assembled a mounted flash lamp system for our flash thermography project, and assisted in the assembly of both our biofidelic headform and the testing simulator where we expose it to repeated percussive blasts.

Due to our multidisciplinary focus, LASIR collaborates with individuals from multiple departments within Vanderbilt and I work directly with both faculty and students inside the lab space. As a result, part of my job also involves ensuring proper safety protocols are enforced during lab operation to ensure safety for everyone present.

I’m relatively new to Vanderbilt since I started six months ago. However, how I got here is an interesting story. I was born in Chicago, Illinois, but my family moved here when I was 4. My mother accepted a job at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center as a registered nurse. She has worked for VUMC in several different departments for the last 20 years. Growing up, I was always around Vanderbilt, attending several of Vanderbilt’s summer academies in middle school and high school. When I graduated in May 2023 from Cornell University with a master’s degree in biomedical engineering, I knew I wanted my first job to be closer to home and with a university I was familiar with. To me, Vanderbilt is practically an extended family, and when I saw the opportunity to join the staff here, I was quick to apply. In the future, I hope to continue my education here and obtain my PhD in biomedical engineering.

The most exciting part for me is the opportunity to learn and grow as an engineer! It’s very exciting to apply the skills I have learned through academia with real world applications and testing. Additionally, the opportunity to meet and work with individuals who have extensive experience developing and applying non-destructive evaluation techniques and observe their processes has been incredibly invigorating and mentally stimulating. Every day I enter the lab there are always new problems to be solved, and the team here at LASIR is very supportive and collaborative, which makes the problem-solving process a breeze.

Outside of work, I enjoy exploring Nashville’s many restaurants, parks, and music scenes. I especially love taking my dog for walks around the Metro Center greenway and throwing the frisbee with him at the Two Rivers dog park. When I have the opportunity, I also like to head out to the Cheatham dam for kayaking and fishing. Other than outdoor related activities, I am also an avid reader of fiction novels and participating in Dungeons and Dragons campaigns. In the future, I hope to travel outside of the United States more. My current must travel destinations include India, Europe and Japan.