College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

MSE alumnus helps next generation of materials science engineers

“At the end of the day, everything is made from something.”

This is what alumnus Jake Auliff tells first year students who are looking for what engineering department is the right fit for them.

Auliff knows materials engineering, and people. He earned his B.S. degree from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in 2003 and is currently a senior engineering manager at Danfoss Power Solutions in Ames.

Auliff always felt an affinity toward chemistry and physics, and after falling in love with the park-like atmosphere of Iowa State’s Central Campus on a visit during high school, he started evaluating different engineering departments. MSE was the ideal fit for him.

“Their focus on fundamentals and the right analysis techniques for each discipline, having their unique partnership with the Ames National Laboratory and giving me the opportunity to do internships were some of the big reasons why I chose MSE,” Auliff said.

One of those internships for Auliff was at Danfoss, which made the transition to industry a smooth and fulfilling one.

“I lead a global team of subject matter experts in materials engineering and tribology that is a global resource for our division and company,” Auliff said. “We help to solve technical problems and deliver consultancy as well. It is a lot about coaching, mentoring and helping others get to the right answers. Oftentimes that is getting the right people talking to each other, which involves breaking down communication silos and helping the team to continuously strengthen their professional networks for the benefit of the team and towards accomplishing key business objectives.”

Auliff’s leadership role with Danfoss naturally fits into his role on the External Advisory Council for MSE, upon which he currently serves as chair.

“I think it is a super opportunity, that I am deeply honored to have been chosen, and I hope to contribute the ‘voice of the customer,’” Auliff said. “I see our role, as EAC members, as giving feedback to the department on what—from my perspective—industry is needing to receive, in terms of key attributes and skillsets, from MSE graduates.”

MSE students can unlock some of those key attributes and skillsets, through opportunities for a senior design project and internships, thereby enabling a smooth transition to working in a wide range of diverse companies.

“I think of materials science as a ubiquitous discipline, in that almost every company makes something with materials,” Auliff said. “It is a safe part of the industry in terms of job security and materials engineers are absolutely essential and remain in high demand.”