Alumni Spotlight: Nick Mitchell (’92)

Nick Mitchell

“The other day I watched the wheelchair ramp being folded down on a bus, and thinking about how an engineer had made that possible, I felt a moment of pride,” Nick Mitchell said. “Even though that’s not the type of work I do, I feel that all engineers are members of one big fraternity, each of us using our skills and talents to improve the world in some way.”

Mitchell may never have designed a wheelchair ramp, but he has forged an impressive career in another arena: aeronautical engineering. “I grew up dreaming about becoming a fighter pilot, flying high-performance aircraft,” he recalls, “but that required uncorrected 20/20 vision, which I didn’t have when I graduated high school, so I decided to design them instead.”

Now a project manager leading teams focused on making improvements to aircraft safety, reliability, and performance at Lockheed Martin, Mitchell has also worked at such iconic companies as Northrop Grumman and Rockwell International. “The safety of every person who steps onto one of our aircraft — and the accomplishment of their missions to defend our country — depend on us,” Mitchell says, “and we take that responsibility very seriously.”

Mitchell also takes seriously the debt of gratitude he owes to his alma mater. “Some of our professors were extremely demanding — in one of my classes it wasn’t unusual to score only 20 or 30 on a test — but that rigor has served me well in my career and in life,” he recalled. “As a co-op student at the Martin Marietta company in the early 80s, I was chosen to participate in the Venus Orbiting Imaging Radar (VOIR) program. It was a very proud moment for me to be entrusted with a significant task for that spacecraft. My selection to that role was due mainly to the confidence the company had in me and the academic preparation I received at Poly. “I also discovered, after I graduated, that Brooklyn Poly, as it was then known, was highly recognized all over for its academic excellence. I worked for a time in California and even people on the other side of the country were impressed when they heard where I had studied. Poly gave me excellent preparation and an advantage over many of my peers.”

Mitchell pays it forward in myriad ways: among other activities, he has sat on his company’s Diversity Council; serves as a judge for the SAE International Aero Design competition for college students; been a board member of NYU Tandon’s alumni association; and volunteered as a middle-school mentor and Science Olympiad coach. “It’s an enormous privilege to have attended Poly, to be working at Lockheed Martin for more than two decades, and to be a member of the engineering profession,” he says. “Those are parts of my life that I will never take for granted.”