Edison Edge: Nathaniel McKeever

Edison Edge: Nathaniel McKeever
nathaniel mckeever

It’s often said that you become what you surround yourself with, and for Nathaniel McKeever that’s certainly shaping up to be true. The early career materials engineer has landed an opportunity among the best and brightest at GE Research and there’s no question he’ll emerge leaps and bounds closer to the technical expert he’s aiming to become.

Nathaniel grew up in New York City where competition is a huge part of education and drive is a prerequisite to success. He understood early on that no matter how hard he works, someone’s always working harder, and that a mere desire to succeed sometimes simply isn’t enough. Nathaniel’s passion for math and science developed in middle school, fueled by the energy of an amazing teacher.

“Ms. Barnes was a sixth-grade teacher who had a vision for all her students. She wanted to shape the next generation of engineers and doctors,” said Nathaniel. “She was incredible, honestly.”

Nathaniel attended Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts where he split his time pursuing STEM and his other passion, trumpet. The structure, competition, and support of LaGuardia really resonated with Nathaniel, so as senior year inched closer, he looked at colleges and universities where he could mimic that experience.

He settled on Johns Hopkins University, pursuing a double degree: a Bachelor of Science in Materials Science & Engineering and a Bachelor of Music in Trumpet Performance at The Peabody Institute. His time was extended with a Master of Science in Materials Science & Engineering to gain a deeper understanding of the principles of the materials domain.

“I was drawn to engineering because of a desire to change the world through technology,” Nathaniel said. “Much of the design ingenuity found in structural engineering such as bridges and buildings can be readily observed. But, what about the material used in their construction? Why do they work? Through the study of micro and atomic structure, materials science and engineering begins to answer this question.”

Nathaniel’s focus continued to narrow as he pursued academic research, coursework, and various internship experiences. Then, he was introduced to GE.

“I realized I didn’t want to go into academia or work for a national lab,” said Nathaniel. “I loved the combination of researching next generation materials as well as knowing you are part of a business that’s making a tangible difference. Every program at GE is executed with the intent of it being applied in a commercial product and I really liked that.”

In June 2020, Nathaniel joined GE’s Edison Engineering Development Program (EEDP), a multi-year rotation-based program aimed at accelerating professional and technical development through business-critical assignments. His first rotation was with the Materials Characterization group, which uses analytical methods like scanning electron microscope (SEM), computed tomography (CT), and spectroscopy to quantify chemical, microstructure, and physical properties of materials including plastics, high temperature ceramics, and metal alloys. 

n mckeever

Nathaniel worked a few different projects in this rotation, including using Python & PyTorch to develop an analytical pipeline built upon deep learning techniques to automate image analysis for materials like GE’s ceramic matrix composite (CMC). This work is used to create a faster, more reliable method of inspection.

“This is a relatively new area of study called materials informatics – where we apply artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to materials science data,” said Nathaniel. “We can take a material, cross section that material and get an image. AI and ML enable us to segment the image and produce quantifiable information to gain insight into where and why an issue is occurring. We can then track characteristic changes in every iteration and dictate the next move.”

For his second (and current) rotation, Nathaniel stayed with Research’s Materials Characterization group where he’s further developing his deep learning image analysis techniques in a CMC application. He’s also performing imaging-based microstructural analysis on a superalloy developed for GE’s turbine engine components.

“GE is a great place to learn. The Center crosses over a great deal of technologies,” said Nathaniel. “It’s unique in that I can sit down and have a conversation with someone with years of experience in materials and then the next day I can talk with an expert in AI and machine learning.”

Nathaniel is taking every opportunity to tap into the experience and insight of those who surround him, including those outside his discipline. He currently serves as president of GE Research’s Newcomers Club, a group whose mission is to connect new hires with the local community. The group hosts bi-weekly activities such as kayaking, rock climbing, and seeing concerts. This year, they’ve also collaborated with other GE employee resource groups (ERGs) to cross-pollinate their membership communities and build a new sense of corporate culture as employees return to work. Given his background, it’s a natural place for Nathaniel to be… leading the charge to foster a strong sense of community.

Moving forward, Nathaniel is focused on building his foundation of knowledge and putting in the hours so he too can one day be called an expert in his field and transform technology to better the world. It’s quite the pursuit, but hey… Nathaniel’s a New Yorker, and that is the New York state of mind.

Share to social

We're here to solve your toughest problems.

Work With Us