Andrew Wilke is a philosophizing engineer. Get to know more about his knack for fluid mechanics and Frank Zappa lyrics.
Senior Principal Research Engineer
Q: What is your expertise?
Technically, I’m most skilled at fluid mechanics, heat transfer, generating conceptual solutions to complex problems and establishing how to best confirm or deny viability of those concepts.
Interpersonally, I’m skilled at adding value to projects by soliciting, understanding and integrating perspectives of multiple stakeholders, including co-workers, clients, clients’ supervisors, product users and investors.
In general, I’m also an advocate for “sick” levels of quality and excellence in bb7 deliverables.
Q: Do you have a philosophy?
I have numerous philosophies. Creativity is my religion. Gratitude is my practice. Good things come from effort and commitment. When confronted with a dilemma, choose both options. It takes a genius to be wrong 100% of the time; we each have a partial truth to contribute. Leave the world in a better state than I received it. The more and more I learn, the less and less I know; live the question (I think that last one is an Einstein / Rilke mashup!).
Q: What is your favorite part of your job?
I love the creative process and within that, focusing tightly on a very challenging problem for days and then “relaxing the grip” and “listening for solutions.” I enjoy continuously learning new things about technology, people, and organizations. I thrive on the experience in collaborative team work when the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. I really enjoy working on products that benefit other people and the planet.
Q: What is the best piece of career advice you ever received?
”Do what you love.” Personally, this was evident when I was two years old. My mom tells me I took apart the latch mechanism of the “play pen” and promptly walked out; born to be an engineer. Because what we love often “comes naturally” to us, there typically is not a lot of struggle and drama associated with it. For that reason, it can ironically be difficult to see.
Q: If you could go back in time and talk to yourself at the beginning of your career, what would you tell yourself?
It’s important to set clear goals and work toward achieving them, but to simultaneously practice seeing and saying “yes” to wildly unexpected opportunities that arise. Also, while we are all preoccupied early in our careers with achievement and acquiring security, far deeper rewards lie in eventually adopting a perspective of service to others. Anne Frank wrote, “No one has ever become poor by giving.”
Q: What is the weirdest project you worked on (and why)?
I spent months working on an automatic, continuously-renewing toilet seat cover. We had to design a motorized device that could survive a veritable onslaught of human waste, hourly cleaning regimens, vandalism, general abuse…All without any unexpected surprises to users. We had to nail the reliability. Can you imagine how a user would react to the seat cover starting to move underneath them? Or, what if it failed to move when it was supposed to? Ironically, the crinkly plastic film would collect way more contaminants than an unprotected toilet seat.
Q: What is your proudest work achievement?
I’m proudest of successfully managing the INOmax DS development project for INO Therapeutics. Other highlights include solving pivotal technical problems that resulted in patents for three products: an acoustic isolation system for an infant hearing tester, a seal gas chamber for a laboratory pyrolyzer and a novel pneumatic seal for a laboratory chromatograph.
Q: What is one thing you cannot work without?
Q: What is something no one knows about you?
I know all the words to Frank Zappa’s song “Evelyn, a Modified Dog.”
Q: Do you have any outside activities?
I founded, lead and teach a thriving 300-member community of ukulele enthusiasts called MAUI (Madison Area Ukulele Initiative). I’m an eager consumer of information about evolutionary perspectives on human and organizational development. I’ve also begun doing outreach work for people with chronic pain.
I have a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering (magna cum laude) from The Milwaukee School of Engineering. I also have sufficient credits to have minored in environmental science, psychology, studio art and mathematics from UW – Milwaukee and UW – Madison.