Brandywine welcomes new engineering professor

Aaron Rape's headshot
Credit: Aaron Rape

New Faculty Spotlight

Name: Aaron Rape

Title: Assistant Teaching Professor of Engineering

Aaron Rape joined Penn State Brandywine’s engineering department as an assistant teaching professor in August 2022. He received his bachelor of science in physics from Allegheny College and his doctorate in materials science and engineering from Penn State. Rape was previously an adjunct professor at Temple University and has more than 10 years of research and hands-on experience.

Brandywine: What are you teaching?

Aaron Rape: I'm teaching engineering courses. I'm teaching statics, three sections of first-year seminar, product design and development, and finite element analysis.

Brandywine: What interested you in teaching at Brandywine? 

Aaron Rape: I've always wanted to be a teacher. This is really what I've always wanted to do. I graduated from Penn State so it's cool to be part of the Penn State family. I did my undergraduate studies at Allegheny College, which is a small liberal arts college in Northwest PA. I like that small kind of campus feeling. It's really nice to be here and be part of Penn State while still feeling like a tight-knit community. It's a really great place.

"It's really nice to be here and be part of Penn State while still feeling like a tight-knit community. It's a really great place."

—Aaron Rape , assistant teaching professor of engineering

Brandywine: What is your background and experience? 

Aaron Rape: My Ph.D. is in material science engineering, which is related to what I teach in a lot of ways. Most of the mechanical experience that I have is really hands-on that I've learned in industry. I previously taught at Temple University for a bit as well.  

After I graduated, I worked in the engineering industry for a while. I worked on a couple different types of projects. I worked at a company called Momentive, where I worked on designing custom heat sinks for really high-performance electronics. Then, I went to work at a couple aerospace companies where I worked on designing a spaceship, which became Dream Chaser. I worked on the thermal management of the reentry of that vehicle. The idea is that the ship would go to the International Space Station and take either cargo or people. I worked on the cargo version. The idea is that it would drop off the cargo, reenter Earth, and land on a runway like a plane.

Brandywine: What has been one of your most challenging experiences as a professor? How did you overcome it?

Aaron Rape: Time management is an adjustment. I really want to go above and beyond for every student and do the right thing for every single student. Doing that takes so much time. I need to figure out how to get more efficient to achieve the same results. I think that's the biggest one. It's really trying to figure out how to do the best for every student without doing it individually.

Brandywine: What are your research interests? 

Aaron Rape: My Ph.D. thesis was on developing materials that have high thermal conductivity (copper diamond composites mostly). I still enjoy coming up with new composites, not necessarily for thermal applications, but it's nice. I like to come up with new materials with up-and-coming manufacturing processes. I think the thing that I'm most interested research-wise is coming up with new materials that are built by modern manufacturing processes, such as 3D printing, and then taking advantage of some of the unique properties of those methods.

Brandywine: What made you interested in pursuing a degree and career in science/engineering?

Aaron Rape: I enjoy learning about how things work — I think it’s how my brain processes things. I listened to an interview this morning by Saul Perlmutter, one of the men who discovered that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. He said that the world is a toy box and he wanted to understand how everything works. That’s the way that my mind works, too. I want to understand how everything works, and that’s why I pursued a degree and career in those respective fields.

Brandywine: You have experience in physics, material science/engineering, thermal engineering and aerospace engineering. Is there one subject you prefer over the others?

Aaron Rape: I don’t prefer one subject over the others. I like that I have that broad experience. I think the thing that's great about science, engineering and technology is that there's so much overlap. I think that the best engineers are the people that can blend the disciplines and blend those lines and really do interesting things by thinking creatively in multidisciplinary ways.

Brandywine: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Aaron Rape: I have two girls, so that takes up most of my free time, but it's really fun. I love to play with my daughters. When I do get a few minutes to myself, I enjoy cycling. I spend a lot of time riding my bike and doing bike-related events. I commute to campus for work on my bike as much as I can. I like to cook and bake as well. Especially this time of year — fall is a really good baking season.

"I want to be part of the community and share my experiences with people who might benefit."

—Aaron Rape , assistant teaching professor of engineering

Brandywine: Anything else to add? Anything you would like people to know about you? 

Aaron Rape: I want my people to know my door’s open. I want to get to know the community, the students, the faculty, everybody that works here. I want to be part of the community and share my experiences with people who might benefit.