When Dr. Brian Jensen was in first grade, his favorite subjects were math and science, so his mom told him he should become an engineer. That early introduction led to the Brigham Young University professors major focus in the field of microsystems.
Engineering classes at BYU cemented his passion. He considered going into math or physics as an undergraduate student, but the longer he stayed in engineering the more excited he got.
One of the things he loves about engineering is that it’s never the same; there’s always a new problem to solve.
“I love that with almost any product that is out there on the market I can tell someone how it works,” Jensen said.
Because mechanical and electrical engineering often use different language to refer to the same things, Jensen got an additional master’s degree in electrical engineering in 2004 from the University of Michigan.Though it extended his education by a semester, having this in addition to his mechanical engineering doctorate from BYU helped him better understand and collaborate with the mechanical and electrical engineers he worked with.
In his time working with micromechanisms Jensen has helped develop everything from microsprings in wristwatches to bacteria repelling scalpels. Much of his work is in biomedical systems, and he feels like that's been some of the most impactful work he’s done.
Around ten years ago Jensen collaborated with Professor Sandra Hope from the microbiology department, making very very tiny needles that were being used to inject DNA into cells. From that project they were able to create transgenic mice.
“I remember the first time my student came to me with a photograph showing a glowing egg cell; we had injected a gene that would make a fluorescent protein…” Jensen said. “To me that embodies what is most exciting about engineering; you can spend a lot of time digging into the details of a problem, then when you come to a solution...it’s really exciting.”
He is currently working on producing coatings on biomedical orthopedic implants in collaboration with Dr. Anton Bowden. They will help reduce the amount of infection that can happen following implant surgery.
“We’re pretty excited about this. We’ve been working on this one for about five years, and we are on the verge of hopefully getting that moved out into real life,” Jensen said.
After teaching Sunday school as a freshman, Jensen considered the possibility of teaching. It became a reality after he worked as a micromechanism designer at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, NM. He loved what he did there but felt pulled to the classroom.
“My favorite thing about teaching is when you can see the change that happens in students, either when they develop a new skill, or they come to understand some concept, or sometimes they just develop new maturity or come to understand how to handle life in the real world,” Jensen said.
When he isn’t putting hours in at the lab, he’s putting miles on the bicycle. Dr. Jensen has been an avid cyclist for eight years and rides 3,000-5,000 miles a year. He also enjoys traveling with his wife, and together they have five children.
With over two decades of engineering experience under his belt, Jensen has learned that the most important things aren’t the problems you solve but the relationships you have.
“The most important things in your life are going to be the relationships that you form with your family and with your coworkers,” Jensen said. “No amount of really cool problems that you solve are going to take the place of those people. So go solve cool problems but remember to nurture those relationships.”