“What I hear I forget, what I see I remember, what I do I understand.” – Xun Zi

This section of my website is geared to give the reader a broader understanding of myself and skill sets. You can think of this page as an extended resume of sorts. For a real resume you will have to reach out to me personally.

Who are You?

My name is Andrew Birkel and, depending on the crowd I am in, I go by either. From a young age I have loved working with my hands and it has been one of the primary ways in which I learn. Of the various skills my father taught me growing up, nothing sticks out more than him sharing his love of computers. And nothing probably prepared me more for the modern world than when my father taught me how to build a PC, when I was about 11, from scrap parts he saved from a tech dump at his work. And from there my teens were spent learning skills through my journey to Eagle Scout or else on my own tinkering with things.

This journey continued into my university days with expanding my electronics and fabrication knowledge through clubs and courses. It wasn't until I landed my first research position, which is when I realized the importance of a well-rounded education and breath of skills. It is a common occurrence to find experimental physicists who do not have basic fabrication skills, though this has not always been the case. Over-time the world has become focused on specialization to the detriment of the projects we work on. This is not to say that specialization isn’t important, it is, but over my career I have learned how valuable it is to incorporate a ‘jack of all trades’ into your team. And in my career, I have worked to become that valuable and rare addition to the jobs I take on.

Once I graduated with a B.S. in physics, I took on the role of technical instructor at MIT in their experimental physics lab course. This gave me a foot in the door into one of the best physics departments in the world, allowing me to expand my knowledge and skill set by working with incredibly smart and talented physicists and engineers. In turn this allowed me to transition into a Research Specialist position working in High Energy and High Density Plasma(HEDP) physics, where I was able to make substantial contributions. In this position, like with all others, I took the opportunity to expand by skills by working on a multitude of complex problems. But there were limitations on the impact I could have, as my contributions were limited in their scope due to my position. If I wanted to make a lasting impact and help direct the long-term vision of the work I engaged in I would have to move on.

Once I had this realization, I worked to find a position at MIT that would allow me to have a broader scope and impact. This is when I found and joined one of the largest (~100 Principal Investigators) and most forward thinking DLC's on campus, Research Laboratory for Electronics (RLE). I took on the role of a Laboratory Operations Manager, directly working for one of the largest groups in the DLC – Dirk Englund’s Quantum Photonics & AI Group. And more recently was tasked with helping integrate the newest addition into RLE, Condensed Matter eXperimental physics PI's, and more specifically Pablo Jarillo-Herrero.



Machining and Hands-on Oriented Skills

Manual Machining
CNC Machining
Laser Cutting
Plasma Cutting
3D Printing
Measurement (Tools)
UHV Vacuum Chambers
Design & Fab.
Optics and
High-Power Lasers
Sand Blasting
Rigging & Moving
Heavy Equipment

Programming and Software Skills

Office Suite
Google Suite
Raspberry PI

Undergraduate Clubs & Activities

Organization Position Description
RPI Electronics Club RPI Club Member The Club aimed at providing a place where students could get together to learn, tinker, and apply knowledge.
RPI Laboratory Assistant (Fall '09 to Spring '12) Laboratory Assistant I run weekly labs involving the proper methods of Plastic Welding, MIG Welding, Handheld Plasma cutting and Brazing. Taught and supervised the proper usage of a horizontal mill, vertical mill, lathe, band saw and drill press. Taught the use of a Vernier caliper, micrometer and tap.
RPI Undergraduate Research Assistant (Summer of '10, '11) (Fall of '11, Spring '12) Research Assistant I worked on various projects in the field of semiconductors: Data acquisition and analysis on photoluminescence of test semiconductor wafers, Prototyped a low-cost Photoluminescence setup, Developed LabVIEW code for multiple experiments (Both PL-Setups, Temperature Microcontroller), and acquired C-V measurements for various GaN samples over a large range of temperatures ranging from 77K to ~300K.
RPI Fencing Club (Assistant Armorer 2010, Master Armorer 2011) Fencing Club Armorer On top of practices and helping run tournaments, I was in charge of keeping all of the club equipment in working order. This entails rewiring and general electronic troubleshooting.
SPS (Society of Physics Students) Member SPS is an undergraduate physics organization. The aim is to provide both academic and social activities to current undergraduate physics students from providing homework help to running a physics outreach program to scheduling guest speakers and events.
RAS (Rensselaer Astrophysical Society) Member RAS is aimed at allowing students to pursue interests in astronomy. We operate an observatory on campus and have multiple club and personal telescopes. Also, we hold meetings and provide public events and discuss a range of topics and projects.