Rod Bayliss III ’20, MEng ’21 The one thing he remembers most clearly from his childhood is his father’s 1964 Ford Mustang. “I’m fascinated by that car,” Bayliss said. “Especially through the engine, this thing converts oxygen and fuel into power.”
Bayliss grew up in Augusta, Georgia. Mathematics and physics are easy for him. In high school, he developed a passion for Latin, Greek and debate. “I particularly liked Latin grammar,” he recalled. “Its declension allows you to move words in sentences. It reminds me of solving engineering problems.”
Bayliss’ parents both have engineering degrees, and they urged him to consider career opportunities in electrical engineering. At MIT, he signed a contract with Professor David Perreault, SM ’91, PhD ’97 through the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) to engage in his power electronics research.
“At the time I still thought I wanted to work on engines,” Bayliss said. “But in that UROP, I discovered power electronics. The practice of moving energy. This is the name of the game, and I like it.”
After understanding how electrical energy is generated, stored, and converted, he began to study inductors-a device that can store large amounts of magnetic energy-which generate high-frequency radio waves, which are key elements in the process of etching ultra-fine silicon. . “You put gas in a chamber, and then use these radio waves to phase the gas into plasma,” he explained. “Then you direct the plasma to etch. This process requires a lot of energy.”
After completing his undergraduate degree in three and a half years, Bayliss continued to stay at MIT to continue to perfect his sensors for one year, and received his master’s degree in January 2021. He is now studying for a PhD at the University of California, Berkeley.
Appropriately, he returned to his first engineering fan: electric motors. Specifically, he is studying new ways to store electrical energy and convert it into a form that can reliably power aircraft engines. In March last year, at the Black Alumni/ae of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (BAMIT) Research Grand Slam, this was an online competition in which alumni submitted their research to the jury panel. This work won the Bayliss first prize.
Bayliss knows that the goal is complicated. “Compared with fossil fuels, powering aircraft with electricity is more challenging,” he said. “Batteries are heavy. System failures-from batteries to inverters to motors-will have catastrophic consequences during the flight. But we will make these aircraft power electronics work.”