Doctoral (PhD) PhD Student – Gertrude Gutierrez

Jonathan Sauder

PhD in Mechanical Engineering and a Masters degree in Product Development Engineering

Life at USC is a much broader and interesting experience than just studying

- Jonathan Sauder
In choosing to pursue his PhD at University of Southern California’s (USC) Viterbi School of Engineering, Jonathan Sauder feels he got the opportunity to don several hats. From being a senator for the department’s graduate student association to trying his hand at sailing, fencing and mixed martial arts (MMA), Sauder got the best of several worlds. “As a graduate student, I could get involved in additional classes and activities beyond the typical engineering course work,” he says. In deciding to pursue his PhD, Sauder was drawn to USC for its attractive fellowship program and the university itself which was set in the dynamic city of Los Angeles. For him, USC was the best chance to work with top research faculty and gain access to networking opportunities that could shape his future. During his four years of study at USC (2009-2013), Sauder utilized the university’s resources and facilities in the best possible way. “The main thing is what is available beyond the classes – clubs or organizations – really give you a much broader experience in your time at USC,” he says. For instance, he explains how the USC career service played an integral role in polishing his resume and making him ready for the professional world. He even took a special effects class at the university’s film school (Cinematic Arts) to understand the mechanics of special effects and camera tricks. Sauder, who is currently working as a Mechatronics Engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Los Angeles, says USC influenced his approach towards engineering problems and solving them. This helped him crack interviews and landed him summer internship opportunities at Mattel and Microsoft and got him job offers from Intel, Mattel, JPL and Apple post his PhD. True to his idea of maximizing the experience at USC, Sauder did much more than just engineering. Six years have passed and he can vividly describe every detail of his 2011 sailing trip to Catalina that he took as a part of the additional class he enrolled at USC’s Nautical Science program. Sauder, along with six other students from the university’s graduate and undergraduate school, took the sailing trip where they learnt navigation and sighting locations using just a compass. “Imaging having no GPS and finding locations on a physical map using just a compass,” says Sauder as he animatedly explains the trip. “I had the chance to meet students from across different departments of USC – something I wouldn’t have done in my day to day classes.” Living in the heart of Los Angeles, Sauder even got a chance to volunteer as a member of the Mt Baldy ski patrol where he got trained in wilderness medicine to help injured skiers. “Not many universities have nice weather like this where you get to reach a skiing place within an hour. The fun thing about USC was I could switch seasons so quickly – I would be in shorts and t-shirts in the morning and within few hours would head up for volunteer work and get bundled up, head to toe, in thick jackets,” he explains while reminiscing his volunteer experience. Sauder still maintains his ties with the USC and now teaches a subject in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at the university’s Viterbi School of Engineering.

Published on August 11th, 2017

Last updated on July 17th, 2020