Profile: David Francis
He may have grown up in Alabama, but David Francis is forever maroon and white.
Four generations of his family preceded him at Mississippi State, and David embraces the same spirit, the same tradition and the same pride as the generations before him.
In the 1880s, David's forefathers first came to the university when it was still known as The Agricultural and Mechanical College of the State of Mississippi, and those young men, like many of their peers, were military soldiers working to train and learn more about agriculture at the Starkville campus.
Approximately 100 years later, David's father broke new ground by completing an engineering degree, and the stage was set for David's pursuit of a mechanical engineering degree in the early 2000s. He always knew he wanted to go into engineering, and Mississippi State was the perfect place to do it.
"In the spring of my senior year of high school, I came here and really enjoyed it. So I knew I was going to Mississippi State. Then, I met my wife, Emily, here my freshman year," he said. "It took me five years to finish my bachelor's and four years to get my Ph.D. A year-and-a-half ago, we had a baby, Lucy. The people at the university and the people in the community have made our lives so rich, it's hard to imagine leaving."
David isn't planning on going anywhere, either. He'll complete his doctoral degree in mechanical engineering in May; he recently defended his thesis on the modeling of plastics.
"My research is focused on understanding damage in plastics — how, when, and where plastic components will break," he said. "In total, the research I do takes on three parts: experimental: studying fracture phenomena; theoretical: using math to explain the physics driving fractures in plastics; and computational: putting the math into a language that a computer can understand in order to simulate correct material behavior."
David wants to give back to the university, community and state that have enhanced his family's lives and his own.
Predictive Design Technologies, a small startup company housed at Mississippi State's business incubator in the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park, recently hired David to begin full-time work after graduation.
"A couple of my colleagues at CAVS (Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems) work over there part-time, but I'll be the first Mississippi State graduate to go into it full-time," David said. "That was the whole idea behind this company: to grow Mississippi business and to funnel grad students into a place in Mississippi where mechanical graduate students can work and stay in the state."
Giving back to the state, community and school that have given him degrees, a family and a job is what's now driving David, he said.
"It's neat giving back to Mississippi by staying here. I'm trying to give back and raise the economy, as well as the status of Mississippi," he said. "Mississippi State's done a lot of good things with that startup company. They have a lot of interest and a little bit of stake in the company to see it do well. They've given their money, their resources and office space to do just that: to see Mississippi improve in the eyes of the nation."Writer: Leah Barbour | Photo: Beth Wynn
Next week … Mitzi Stegall !