A passion for research: Nicholas Pomianek ’21

A passion for research: Nicholas Pomianek ’21

Alumnus’ undergraduate research experience set the course for his future.

Nick Pomianek '21 photo

Nick Pomianek ’21

Today, Nick Pomianek ’21 is pursuing a PhD in mechanical engineering at Boston University—a decision prompted by his time as an undergraduate researcher in the lab of Ranga Dias, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester. Dias recently made Time magazine’s annual list of the top 100 individuals shaping their fields.

“Professor Dias was ‘that’ professor for me during college,” says Pomianek. “He taught me so much, has been a great mentor to me, and was the best research advisor I could have asked for.” Pomianek first came across Dias as a student in his thermodynamics class. He was fascinated by Dias’ groundbreaking efforts to create viable superconducting materials at or near room temperatures—work that has myriad applications. For instance, it could transform the global power grid structure, reduce costs of medical imaging equipment, and fuel the space and transportation industries.

After a few weeks of classes, Pomianek asked Dias if there’d be any opportunities to join his research lab. “I applied for a job and got it,” adds Pomianek, who worked for Dias full-time for two summers and part-time during his junior and senior years. “Being a part of his lab showed me, in a hands-on way, how science and engineering complement each other.”

Pomianek appreciates how Dias involves undergraduates in his lab. “He encourages autonomy yet never let us get off-track, and he models patience and perseverance, which is so necessary as a researcher,” he says. “Under his guidance, I pursued projects I enjoyed and designed experiments that felt meaningful to me.”

One project focused on reducing pressure requirements for producing solid hydrogen, a process that involves compressing hydrogen gas in a diamond anvil cell. At extreme pressures, those diamonds would often break, which is costly. Pomianek created experiments that tested what happened to the diamonds with different degrees of pressure at various temperatures, with a goal of decreasing breakage.

Pomienak has always loved to tinker and be involved in many activities. As a kid, he enjoyed taking apart household electronics, categorizing their parts, and then putting them back together. As he got older, his passion for engineering took hold. He’s since built headphones, computers, and various performing enhancement parts for his 1992 Toyota 4Runner, which he uses for off-road adventuring, a hobby of his. Just recently, he built a robot for home use. With the click of a button from his loft bed, the robot will open and close the blinds in his apartment, thus saving Pomianek trips up and down the loft’s ladder every day. In college, in addition to being an undergraduate researcher, he was also a Writing Fellow and a member of the wrestling and ski clubs.

In the future, Pomianek wants to work in a research role that combines his enthusiasm for science and engineering. “I’m interested in discovery, developing new products and technologies, working collaboratively with others, and solving problems that will make the world better in some way,” says Pomianek. “Professor Dias sparked a passion for research that has set the course for my future, and I am very grateful to him.”

Get involved

Research provides an invaluable opportunity for students to interact with faculty outside of the classroom—helping them to grow academically, professionally, and personally. Please consider supporting undergraduate research at Hajim. Your generosity will help educate, inspire, and mark the lives of future engineers. For more information about the ways you can support our students, especially through our Dean’s Innovation Fund, contact Tyrone Jimmison, executive director of Hajim Advancement, or Derek Swanson, director of Hajim Advancement.

—Kristine Kappel Thompson, March 2022