College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Engineering professor and student bond over shared interests

Students in HABET prepare to launch a high altitude balloon
Jabcobson and Idziorek
Doug Jacobson and Joseph Idziorek celebrate after finishing the Gladiator Assault Challenge.

Traditionally, graduate students and their major professors become very well acquainted. They spend hours together furthering research and exploring new theories. Every now and again, a passion outside of academics crops up, just as it has for Doug Jacobson and Joseph Idziorek, who formed a unique bond over foot races that have had them doing everything from eating donuts to competing in an intense obstacle course.

For Jacobson, University Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Idziorek, his graduate student, this common interest was taken to a new level when they took part in the Gladiator Assault Challenge, held May 19 in Boone, Iowa. “When we heard about the race we thought since we’ve taken on so many mental challenges together, why not try a physical challenge,” says Idziorek.

The Gladiator Assault Challenge tests competitors’ physical and mental stamina on a five-to-seven-mile course with a variety of obstacles. Scaling a nine-foot wall, climbing through abandoned water pipes, jumping over hurdles, and balancing over a mud pit are just a few of the 30 obstacles the pair tackled along their five-and-a-half-mile trek.

To prepare for the Assault Challenge they researched past challenges, planning for the obstacles they would encounter.  They also spent time training, with Jacobson attending a boot camp held at his gym and Idziorek utilizing his training for an upcoming marathon.

Doug Jacobson climbing under barbed wireWhile the two did not do any mud-based training, they admitted they were tempted to practice around the construction site of Elings Hall and Sukup Hall, the new home to Iowa State’s agricultural and biosystems engineering programs. “There was a huge mud pile one week, and we considered that it might be helpful to just run around in it to get some practice,” says Jacobson.

Idziorek and Jacobson finished the run in one hour and thirty-one minutes, putting them in the upper 30 percent of those who ran that day.

“The obstacles made it feel sort of like boot camp,” says Idziorek. “We didn’t really run too far before we had to do something new. It consisted of a lot of crawling under wires, sliding down hills, and essentially running through the mud.”

The Assault Challenge was not the first time Jacobson and Idziorek have taken a break from the classroom to take on a physical challenge. “We ran in the 5K Doughnut Run during VEISHEA this year,” says Jacobson. “We each ate seven doughnuts to get five and a half minutes taken off of our total run time.”

They feel their time spent racing was well worth it, and say activities outside of academia are something that may be beneficial for all professors and students. Jacobson and Idziorek climbing through obstacles“We’ve joked that a race like the Assault Challenge should be a graduation requirement for all PhD students,” says Jacobson.

“Since PhD students have a qualifier exam, a preliminary exam, and a final defense, why not require a physical component involving the student and their major professor,” jokes Idziorek. “Even though it might change the demographic of students that apply for the program, it would certainly be fun.”

While Jacobson and Idziorek enjoyed bonding over their fascination for engineering and recreation, their mental and physical challenges are soon coming to an end. Idziorek, who graduated in May, is moving to Seattle to begin working and to continue his passion for running.