By Kathy Williams
2020 was an unforgettable year for graduate student Jessie Ringley, but not for the obvious reasons.
Ringley marked the year with earning his bachelor’s degree, starting graduate school, and building a world-record-setting engine, to name a few.
“I love science, and I love trying to understand the physics of the world around and in us,” said Ringley. “Being a grad student at UT is training me to be a successful scientist, broaden my area of expertise, and learn things at a new level of detail.”
Following high school, Ringley went straight into the workforce, landing a job in the manufacturing industry where he quickly caught on to the technical side of automation processes. He eventually began to outpace the learning curve of the engineers he worked with, and started writing programs to solve machining problems, which was usually a job for the engineers.
After nine years in industry, Ringley realized he was smart enough to be an engineer and decided he wanted to go back to school. In the summer of 2013, at the age of 27, he did just that. He enrolled at Walters State Community College and earned his associate’s degree in mechanical engineering in the fall of 2017.
Earning that degree gave Ringley confidence in himself and motivated him to keep going further with his education.
In 2018, he enrolled in the mechanical engineering program at UT and was accepted with open arms even though he didn’t fit the description of a traditional undergraduate student.
During his junior year, he was introduced to the research side of engineering when he joined the Bioinspired Materials and Transduction Laboratory led by James Conklin Fellow and Associate Professor Andy Sarles. This allowed Ringley to expand beyond his mechanical engineering background and paved the way for him to accomplish his dream of becoming a research professor.
With support from his professors and a lot of hard work, Ringley completed his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering last spring and was accepted into the graduate program last summer.
“I love this school, the professors, and the supporting staff, and owe UT a lifetime of gratitude for the multiple avenues of success it has given me,” said Ringley.
He is continuing his graduate studies in the same lab, performing research that focuses on creating next-generation smart devices from biological materials using the droplet interface bilayer technique, which mimics the structure, composition, and transport properties of cell membranes.
Last fall, during his second semester as a graduate student, Ringley submitted his first journal paper for publication.
“This is my personal proudest accomplishment, as I have longed to give back to the scientific community that has taught me so much,” said Ringley.
The understanding of materials, circuits, and combustion engines he gained during his undergraduate studies is also helping Ringley be successful with another one of his loves—building world-record-setting engines.
Ringley developed racing parts and go-fast solutions that he used to build a record-setting engine and turbo package for the Ecoboost 4-cylinder platform. In December, he set a record as having the first 4-cylinder Ecoboost to produce over 800 horsepower to the wheels with only 2.3 liters of displacement, and also holds the record for the fastest Ecoboost of any engine displacement in the world through the 1/8 mile with a trap speed of 118-mph. He is only tenths of a second away, in the quarter mile, from having the fastest Ecoboost of any displacement in the world.
The success of his cars has led to Ringley starting his own business building engines, which has exploded over the past year with the demand to build 3-5 engines each month.
“Despite the current economy, the faster I go and the more power I make, the more my business grows,” said Ringley.
He doesn’t have much free time these days, but Ringley has figured out a way to make it all work as he pursues his dreams. He hopes to set more world records with his engines this year as he continues his research and works toward his goal of becoming a research professor.
Beating the odds himself, Ringley encourages everyone to follow their dreams no matter the circumstances.
“Don’t let anyone tell you going back to college is too hard, you’re too old, you’re too busy, or that it is too late,” said Ringley. “If you want to become a scientist or have a love for science and engineering, embrace it and chase it. With determination and proper time management skills, you can do or be anything you want. I like to think we are the creators of our own life, so go make it happen!”