Who knew playing trombone in a middle school band could lead years later to a stint as a heavy- metal drummer? That’s what happened to IEEE Graduate Student Member Joshua Wilson.
By day, Wilson is an electrical engineering graduate research assistant at the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, in Ohio. By night, he channels his inner rock god as the drummer of a still unnamed metal band that rehearses weekly, preparing for gigs in the Dayton area.
GRADUATE RESEARCH ASSISTANT
“This is definitely my creative outlet,” Wilson says. “I listen to a ton of music—not only metal but also classical, pop, rock, and experimental. I think about what made the musicians write those notes and then play along for the challenge.
“Engineering requires me to remain objective, so I can’t express a lot of emotion in my work. Music is where I express my feelings and let my energy out.”
Wilson picked up the trombone at age 11, only to put it down the next year. Instead, in his middle school he played percussion for the concert band and drums for the jazz band. And he found his true calling in high school: Inspired by Metallica and Pantera, he formed his first heavy metal band. Its one gig was at his class graduation party.
In his junior year at Wright State University, in Dayton, he played part-time in a hard-rock group, Eyeshot, which recorded a professionally produced album that debuted online as MP3s.
For a few years, thin apartment walls made practicing the drums impractical. Then last year he moved into a house, which facilitated rehearsing and recording on his laptop recording studio. His current band—made up of two guitarists (one an EE grad student, the other a high school buddy), a bassist (another EE grad student), and Wilson—rehearses about 4 hours per week. They play cover tunes and original material influenced by such metal bands as Between the Buried and Me, Dream Theater, Gojira, Iced Earth, Lamb of God, Machine Head, and Mudvayne.
“One of my bandmates wants to put gigs on hold until we find a vocalist,” Wilson says. “I’m motivated to play regardless of whether we have a singer. We also need a name, but one of the guitarists is really indecisive.”
As for the band’s image, its members don’t have stereotypically long, head-banging manes of hair. “We don’t look very scary at all,” Wilson says. “Our hair is short. But I think the music will make up for that.”
ELECTRICAL AND COMPUTER ENGINEER
The photo albums of IEEE Member Anne Meixner’s parents contain pictures of Meixner and her three siblings as kids, successively wearing each other’s ski outfits and skis as they were handed down every year.
“We grew up skiing as a family,” says Meixner, who tests semiconductors for Intel Corp., in Hillsboro, Ore. “Every year, my parents would take us on a family ski vacation at Gore Mountain, in North Creek, N.Y. It had a learn-to-ski week, so we’d have 5 days of 90-minute lessons. Every season we spent about 10 days skiing.”
Meixner continued skiing throughout her doctoral studies in electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh. When she moved to Oregon in 1994 to join Intel, she hoped to improve her skiing technique and learned she could get free advanced skiing lessons if she became a ski instructor.
She’s now teaching in her 17th season at Mount Hood Meadows Ski Resort in the Mount Hood National Forest, about 80 kilometers east of Portland. As a member of the Professional Ski Instructors of America, she has earned a Certification II in Alpine (downhill) skiing, with additional training in teaching children and seniors. She spends about 30 days teaching and skiing during the season, which runs November through April, and she attends instructor development clinics at Timberline, on Mount Hood.
“I’m inside all day at work, so I love being outdoors when I get the chance,” Meixner says. “You drive into the mountains, and you’re in another world. It’s a great stress reliever.
“In electronics, you don’t always see the end result. However, with teaching you get to watch your students master skills and overcome their fears.”
Meixner believes her teaching has made her a better engineer. “It helps me work on my communication skills,” she says. “At Intel, becoming a senior engineer means not only having the ability to solve technical problems but also to communicate effectively. Teaching helps me work on both those areas. I’m using the same analytical skills I use at work but to solve a different problem: what the student wants to achieve and how to achieve it.”