Posted by Ije
Georgia Tech-Lorraine students have built relationships with fellow classmates and neighbors, but how well do we know our faculty? Last week I sat down with Dr. Peter McKeon, a professor here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine. This semester, he teaches ME 3017 (Systems Dynamics) and COE 2001 (Statics).
Dr. Mckeon received his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, and his Masters and PhD through Georgia Tech-Lorraine (Fun fact #1: Dr. McKeon did his undergraduate degree with Dr. Layton, who also teaches classes at GTL.) He wrote his thesis in collaboration with the Insitut de Soudure, which involved a numerical and experimental study on developing a structural health monitoring system for high pressure gas reservoirs.
How did Dr. McKeon end up at Georgia Tech-Lorraine? It all started with a visit to Atlanta. There, he met Dr. Declercq, who convinced him to come to France for a research assistant job. (Fun fact #2: Dr. McKeon did his Masters and PhD entirely at Georgia Tech-Lorraine. He has only been to the Atlanta campus once).
Let’s go back even further. As a child, Dr. McKeon first aspired to be a zookeeper. His career dreams transformed as he grew older, and in high school he found he enjoyed physics. He liked that physics could predict what was going to happen in the world. By knowing some fundamental qualities of objects, he could predict a variety of outcomes, from their speed to their motion/trajectory. In college, Dr. McKeon enjoyed his music theory classes, and described these years as a time when he first became a mature musician. (Fun fact #3: Dr. McKeon played bass, guitar, and viola when he was little, as well as a little bit of a piano. He also took voice lessons). He studied the theory and mathematics behind music, and found there were many similarities between his two sets of interests.
Dr. McKeon enjoys many aspects of teaching. However, his favorite part is getting to interact with excited and curious students. He loves to see students engaged and eager to learn, already thinking ahead about how they can use the information he’s taught them and apply them to the real world. He described this as the beginning of a creative process, that he loves to be a part of. I asked Dr. McKeon what his favorite subject is to teach, to which he responded without hesitation: Systems Dynamics. It was his own favorite engineering class, and the first time he truly felt like an engineer. Systems dynamics draws information from a variety of courses (differential equations, calculus, statics, electronic circuits, fluid mechanics, you name it) and makes something cohesive. In Dr. McKeon’s words, the class is “one culmination of understanding of math and science.” It was what first got him interested in acoustics (ironic, because he’s a musician) as a physics discipline. (Fun Fact #4: His PhD is in System Dynamics, Acoustics and Controls. He does work with structural acoustics, which are mechanical vibrations through material).
Dr. McKeon is involved in several hobbies outside the classroom. He plays mandolin and guitar in a band, and plays gigs on different nights here in Metz. He also manages one of Metz’s baseball teams. (Fun Fact #5: His favorite band is the Avett Brothers, and his favorite baseball team is the Pittsburgh Pirates).
I asked Dr. McKeon what the best phrase was to describe Georgia Tech-Lorraine, to which he answered, “Georgia Tech’s foothold and portal to Europe.” Surely, many students would agree that this is a spot on description of our current experiences. Metz holds a very special place in Dr. McKeon’s heart. In fact, he described it as one of the prettiest French towns he’s ever been too. “Downtown is gorgeous, and very appealing aesthetically. The people of Metz are very friendly for the most part. There’s a lot of history here and people have not forgotten it. There are a lot of American cemeteries around this region. The older generation has gratitude toward Americans for the role that we played in their liberation. So it’s special for us to be here in this north east region of France.” Dr. McKeon also loves Metz’s central location. “With one bus ride, I can be at the Luxembourg airport. There’s a one hour train ride to Germany. And I can take the TGV for a day trip to Paris.”
One piece of advice for Georgia Tech-Lorraine students? Dr. McKeon has plenty. “ I think that students are in general too hard on themselves. I think they often expect a lot of themselves, and this experience in general is a very cool experience, but not an easy one. Many students travel every weekend, and it’s a lot to take in. Allow yourself time to breathe while you’re here. Schedule in a few days of rest. Realize you’re not super humans. Prioritize and budget your time to be effective.
But wait, there’s more! “Students should also realize the advantages that Georgia Tech-Lorraine has, and try to leverage and take advantage of them as much as possible. For example, lectures here are tiny classes with a lot of almost one-on-one attention. These same classes would be huge lectures in Atlanta. Use this opportunity to participate in class and get the extra help you need.”
One last piece of advice from Dr. McKeon: “In general, realize that education can be a group activity. We should be striving to learn together and not try to do everything on our own. Students should try to help each other learn as much as possible. It’s better for everybody if everyone can learn the material together.”
Look out for Dr. McKeon in the halls of Georgia Tech-Lorraine! And stay tuned for more Faculty Profiles to come!