NASA to spider silk: new ME professor knows how to handle the heat

From working with NASA to studying spider silk, one of BYU's newest mechanical engineering professors has interesting experiences to share with students.

Troy Munro, a Magna, Utah native, graduated in May with a dual PhD from Utah State and Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium in mechanical engineering and physics. Going to Belgium for school was an easy and valuable choice for Munro.

”Having all my degrees from the same place, I needed something to help me stand out,” he said. “My professor in Utah and a professor in Belgium knew each other and wanted to work together and so it made sense to send a student and I was more than willing to go.”

While finishing up in Belgium, Munro applied to over 20 schools, but felt like BYU was the best choice.

“When I saw the call (for the job), it kept on sticking in my head that I needed to make this the best application,” he said. “I like the department here. There are really good students here, and what I want to do lines up with the people and the facilities here.”

Munro wants to work with the nuclear energy field to learn how materials behave and understand what happens when those materials are extremely hot. His previous research included studying how boiling happens in zero gravity. He and his team at USU went on NASA’s “Vomit Comet,” a reduced gravity aircraft, to find the best heating element for heat transfer. For his PhD, he helped develop measurement techniques that show how well real and synthetic spider silk transfer heat. He worked on that in Utah and in Belgium before coming to BYU.

Since he started working at the end of June, Munro has enjoyed being around great faculty.

“I find that I’m excited to come to work,” he said. “It’s been really helpful in terms of when you go into academia as a new professor, there’s a lot of pressure, but here there is a lot of help and support to help with that pressure.”

He has also enjoyed working with and encouraging his students, teaching measurement systems.

“Usually I tell my students that you can only get out of something what you put into it,” he said. “I also tell them to not be afraid to fail. You’re going to make some mistakes and rather than focusing on the mistake, focus on how to get past that and how to do better next time. You’re going to have low points in your life when you feel alone or you can’t do it, but those are the times when it’s most important to make sure you keep doing what you’ve been doing and asking for help.

In his free time, Munro loves reading books, playing piano, gardening, playing soccer, and most importantly, being with his family.

“I have always described to people that my hobbies are my family, so currently my kids ask to watch me play Legend of Zelda.”

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