Purdue Profiles: Matt High
September 22, 2015
Matt High, utilities distribution mechanical engineer. (Purdue University photo/John Underwood)
Whether he is at a construction site or at the plant, Matt High works to keep Purdue up and running every day. High works at the Wade Utility Plant as a utilities mechanical engineer. The plant uses steam to generate electricity, heat and chilled water throughout campus.
High, a fourth-generation Purdue employee, graduated from Purdue with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering technology and is a Professional Engineer (PE). Recently he received the Indiana Young Engineer of the Year award for his accomplishments at Purdue.
What brought you to Purdue and got you interested in the field of mechanical engineering?
I always thought I would come to Purdue. I grew up in Chalmers, a small town north of West Lafayette, and both of my parents worked here at the University. In high school I became very interested in cars and auto mechanics and decided I didn’t want to go to Purdue. Instead, I went to Ivy Tech, earned a degree in auto mechanics, and worked in a transmission shop for a year. I really enjoyed being a mechanic, but it was more of a hobby. I wanted to do more, so I decided to come to Purdue and earn a degree in mechanical engineering.
After graduating from Purdue, I worked in Indianapolis at a consulting firm for seven years. I was looking for openings in the area when my father, who works at Wade Utility Plant, told me of a job here at Purdue. I applied and here I am today.
What are your job responsibilities, and what does a typical day consist of?
I work in the Utilities Engineering group of Energy and Utilities, which is responsible for managing the use of energy at the Wade Utility Plant and across campus. The tasks I am expected to handle range from replacing and upgrading equipment at the Wade Utility Plant to resolving technical problems encountered in operating various HVAC systems at the building level. This allows me to engage with staff throughout Physical Facilities as well as building occupants campus-wide to understand specific problems that require corrective measures.
What projects are you currently involved in?
An exciting new initiative I am working on is called Chilled Water Free Cooling. Purdue runs large steam or electric-driven chillers to cool the water and buildings all over campus. Buildings with server rooms or specialized research equipment require unique cooling conditions that need to be managed appropriately year-round. Chilled Water Free Cooling directly uses cold outside air to create the cold water necessary for cooling servers and equipment. This approach which will reduce the energy required compared to conventional operations.
You recently received the Indiana Young Engineer of the Year Award. Could you talk about receiving the honor?
The award is through the Indiana Society of Professional Engineers (ISPE). You have to be a member to be nominated, and I am the secretary of our local chapter. One of my supervisors, who is also a member, nominated me for all of the work that I have been doing here at Purdue in the last year. It is a great honor because it shows that all of the work I have been doing has been paying off and is making a difference.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part of my job is probably one of the most rewarding parts of it as well. I am a resource for many campus stakeholders both internal and external to Physical Facilities. It can be challenging to understand the core technical problem that needs to be resolved and develop concrete solutions. It is important to develop a collaborative approach to ensure that all of the stakeholders share a common understanding and to further refine solutions to meet schedules and budgets. It is very rewarding when my core recommendation is accepted and ultimately provides the best solution for Purdue.