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Engineering Program is a Perfect Fit for Bahamian Student

Philip Clarke, Bahamas native, is taking many steps to fulfill his dream of becoming an engineer and in the process is receiving national publicity in the Bahamas.


At a young age, Clarke spent hours on end watching the Discovery Channel and National Geographic and was inspired to become a scholar like the ones he grew up watching. The desire to be a scholar along with his determination set the foundation for Clarke’s academic success.

Clarke began his journey as an engineering student at Florida International University in Miami, Florida, where he received his B.S. in mechanical engineering (Cum Laude ’11). During his senior year as an undergraduate, Clarke focused on furthering his academic career and knew he wanted to pursue his Ph.D. in engineering. His goal was to attend a university that placed a greater priority in their students’ success than the rank of the school. Several people Clarke spoke with suggested the University of Tennessee (UT) was the place he needed to be, and he agreed.

Clarke entered UT’s mechanical engineering doctoral program in the fall of 2012 and began his studies at the Knoxville campus, later he transferred to the UT Space Institute (UTSI) so he could work closely with his advisor, Dr. Reza Abedi.  Clarke, under the guidance of Dr. Abedi, is working on the development of his Ph.D. thesis on the optimization of lithium ion battery components to reduce capacity fade due to mechanical and electrochemical induced degradation and in turn increase the lifespan of these batteries. He is also assisting in the development of an in-house Finite Element Analysis (FEA) code utilizing Space-time Discontinuous Galerkin Finite Element Methods (SDGFEM).

Dr. Abedi describes Clarke as a very self-motivated, friendly student who always seeks innovative solutions in his research and had a level of maturity that is rare at his age. “He is a person who is constantly seeking to learn more whether it is in the classroom or during our research meetings,” Dr. Abedi said.

The quote from Galileo Galilei, “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use,” is what Clarke bases his life on.

“I have a passion in enhancing my mind at every opportunity possible and the opportunity of obtaining my Ph.D. has always been a goal of mine ever since childhood,” Clarke said. This passion is not going to end when Clarke receives his Ph.D., though. He is already making plans to pursue a non-thesis M.S degree in mathematics.

“I’ve come to greatly appreciate the mathematical aspect of engineering and this interest has led me to want to pursue a math degree. I then want to obtain a post-doctoral position where I can transition into a teaching/research position within the engineering department of that or some other university,” Clarke said.

After having mixed experiences with professors, Clarke decided he wants to become a caring and dedicated professor because a good professor can be the deciding factor between a student wanting to further his or her academic career or not. “A Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, in my opinion, is a means of living by Galileo’s quote and becoming one step close to my desire to teach,” Clarke said.

Clarke’s success in his academic years has been an inspiration to others in his hometown and as a result he has been featured in a national Bahamas newspaper story. Clarke hopes the publicity will be a motivational tool for the youth in his country.

He is very thankful for the opportunity to study and do research at UT and is excited for the future.

“This path I chose is by no means an easy one traveled, but I am glad that I chose the UT family to support and guide me along the way. I feel that my time here has been and will continue to be prosperous,” Clarke said.

In his free time, Clarke always likes to keep his mind and body active, and he enjoys new experiences. He is studying Mandarin, learning to play guitar for recreation, and increasing his knowledge of computer programming. Although he loves the tropical weather in the Bahamas, Clarke enjoys the experience of different seasons.

“I especially love the colors during fall and the snow in winter; both things I would definitely not be able to experience back home. There is no place like home, but it pays to experience new things; so I’ve adjusted well and enjoy the difference,” Clarke said.