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Dayton Engineer

Jacky Cai

Aerospace Engineering Doctoral Student Awarded School of Engineering Graduate Student Teaching Assistant Award

By Keelin Kelly '24

Ph.D student Jacky Cai is from Shanghai, China, but has been at the University of Dayton since his senior year of undergraduate through an exchange program with Shanghai Normal University. He started at UD in 2016 as a mechanical engineering student but decided to switch to aerospace engineering for his master's degree study. Upon completing his graduate study, he continued to pursue a doctorate degree and continued working with his advisor, Dr. Gunasekaran, in the University of Dayton Low Speed Wind Tunnel  lab. 

“Dr. Gunasekaran has been a great advisor. He is the reason I stayed at UD for my Ph.D,” Cai said. “We have a great facility here and great students in the lab. The idea of community at UD reflects in our lab, and I enjoy working here.”

Cai became a teaching assistant in 2018 and started instructing classes in 2020. In his eight years at UD he has been a teaching assistant for MEE 225, MEE 401, MEE 409, MEE 440, AEE 553 and AEE 590 and an instructor for ENG 103 and MEE 431L-432L. He enjoys teaching project-based classes and helping his students bring their ideas to life. 

“Sometimes you know a student’s idea is too ‘creative’ and difficult to complete, however, you still want to try your best to help them achieve what they want to do anyway,” Cai said. “That’s the fun part of teaching because you really don’t know what problem you are going to solve before you walk in class everyday.”

In addition to conducting his own research on propeller aerodynamics with Dr. Gunasekaran in the UD Low-Speed Wind Tunnel, Cai has helped and mentored more than 10 undergraduate students in aerospace research. Almost all of them have been able to publish papers under his mentorship. 

“The students’ successes in the lab are my biggest achievement, especially because I am trying to move myself forward as an educator, not just a researcher,” Cai said. “I still do research, but what makes me more proud is working with students to achieve their goals.”

Cai was awarded the School of Engineering Graduate Teaching Assistant Award at the Graduate Student Showcase and Awards in April. He accepted a post graduate position as an assistant professor at Wichita State University and will move to Kansas in June. 

“There have always been good friends around me, giving me ideas and providing me with help even if it is outside of their research work,” Cai said. “It’s a good community, and I am going to miss all of the friends I have made here at UD.”

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