Early Start on a PhD Path in Mechanical Engineering

Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

As his undergraduate career was concluding, Abraham LeMole, E’23, PhD’28, mechanical engineering, elected to start on a PhD path under the guidance of Mehdi Abedi, MIE associate teaching professor. Two co-ops in the mechanical engineering industry helped LeMole decide to advance his education with a focus on research.

In the spring of 2023, Abraham LeMole E’23, PhD’28, mechanical engineering, was evaluating his options for an advanced degree when a conversation with Mehdi Abedi, associate teaching professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at Northeastern University, put him on a path he had not anticipated.

LeMole knew Abedi as his professor of fluid dynamics while pursuing his BS in mechanical engineering at Northeastern. As Abedi discussed his research on pathogen detection systems, LeMole’s became increasingly intrigued. The outcome of that conversation was a proposal that LeMole would help Abedi with his research going forward while also taking advanced degree courses with the goal of moving to a PhD track.

“It was a very big decision,” LeMole says. “But I thought, why not just go for it? There aren’t any real downsides.”

With the plan now underway, LeMole has his eye toward fall when he will take the PhD qualifying exams in order to advance as a doctoral candidate.

When LeMole first decided to attend Northeastern, he was most drawn to the co-op program and the campus itself. He felt comfortable the moment he arrived.

LeMole (far right) presenting his Capstone project with his peers.

He was firm in his choice for mechanical engineering because he believed he could apply what he learned to a wide variety of industries.

“I went into it thinking it would give me the most opportunities and the most options,” LeMole says.

During his first two years, he thought he would pursue a master’s degree in engineering management, but once he was exposed to a real-world work environment at the two co-ops he completed, he knew he wanted to focus on mechanical engineering research.

“I love leading teams, but during my co-ops, I really learned to enjoy actual engineering a lot more,” LeMole says. “That’s why the PhD path made sense.”

In the fall of 2021, LeMole completed his first co-op at Axcelis Technologies in Beverly, Massachusetts. The company builds ion implantation systems used in the development of semiconductors. LeMole worked on both the manufacturing and test development teams. Projects included a building a heat exchanger from spare parts and a new test bay.

His second co-op at Re:Build Fiskt in Wilmington, Massachusetts provided more hands-on experience. LeMole was involved in a rapid prototyping project developing a microfluidics device for a biotech start-up to use in testing during early-stage drug studies.

“The client knew the biology and the chemistry, and we knew how to build a lab on a chip device,” LeMole says. “A lot of it was problem solving, trying to find what worked, and having brainstorming sessions as a team.”

Longer term, LeMole can see himself in a research job in either a corporate or academic setting, although research and teaching have a particular appeal. He likes working as a teaching assistant and he particularly enjoyed his role as a program assistant for a June 2023 Dialogue of Civilizations program in Panama. He helped supervise and mentor 15 students taking an accelerated four-week fluid mechanics class.

“My understanding of a subject doesn’t necessarily matter unless I’m helping someone else understand it,” LeMole says.

Related Faculty: Mehdi Abedi

Related Departments:Mechanical & Industrial Engineering