Proof in the pudding: Travis Johnson’s power career result of driven academics, engineering program

Travis Johnson is an electrical engineer at POWER Engineers, a job he landed after working a co-op position at the company as an engineering student in the UMSL/WUSTL Joint Engineering Program. (Photos by August Jennewein)

Travis Johnson is an electrical engineer at POWER Engineers, a job he landed after working a co-op position at the company as an engineering student in the UMSL/WUSTL Joint Engineering Program. (Photos by August Jennewein)

For Travis Johnson, the path to his electrical engineering career was just down the street at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. It’s but five minutes south from where he went to high school ­– McCluer South Berkeley in Ferguson, Mo.

“I really liked math and science back in high school,” Johnson said. “That encouraged me to go into engineering.”

That’s when he chose the UMSL/Washington University in St. Louis Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program.

Johnson now works for POWER Engineers in St. Louis – a position that grew out of the paid co-op opportunity the joint engineering program made available to him. The co-op program joins engineering students with local companies for hands-on, internship experience prior to graduation.

“The co-op part is one of the reasons I chose to come to UMSL,” said Johnson, who graduated in December 2015. “I wanted to gain more experience and be able to find a full-time job at the end of my degree.”

His plan panned out even better than expected when his co-op position at POWER Engineers turned into a full-time position with the company, which currently employs more than 20 UMSL engineering alumni.

“I design wiring connections for new electrical equipment,” he said. “So I pretty much replace old electrical equipment with new electrical equipment for things like transformers, circuit breakers and relay panels. Drawing and designing everything on paper takes up most of my day.”

It’s entry-level for now, but Johnson has hopes of rising up the ranks and maybe even earning an MBA or engineering management degree along the way.

“I really want to have my own engineering business in the future,” he said.

During his time at UMSL, Johnson got involved on campus in the Society for Future Engineers. He also was a UMSL Ambassador, helping with university events and growing his network.

Associate Dean of the UMSL/WUSTL Joint Engineering Program Bernard Feldman and recent graduate Travis Johnson hold up Johnson's IEEE Power & Energy Society Scholarship award. He was the first UMSL student to ever have been selected for the national scholarship.

Associate Dean of the UMSL/WUSTL Joint Engineering Program Bernard Feldman and recent graduate Travis Johnson hold up Johnson’s IEEE Power & Energy Society Scholarship award. He was the first UMSL student to ever have been selected for the national scholarship.

His extracurricular activities and academic performance earned him the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Power & Energy Society Scholarship given out to exceptional students committed to exploring the power and energy field.

“When I applied my senior year, I didn’t think I would get it,” he said. “It definitely felt like an accomplishment.”

He was the first UMSL student to ever win an IEEE PES Scholarship, a national honor that went to only 209 university students across the country.

“We’re quite proud of him,” said Bernard Feldman, associate dean of the UMSL/WUSTL Joint Engineering Program. “Travis really took the initiative as an undergraduate. He was an outstanding student.”

Feldman also pointed out that the rigors of the joint engineering program and Johnson’s success in it demonstrate what a phenomenal student he was.

“It’s 123 required hours,” Feldman said. “Consider all the work that goes into a one-unit lab course – the reports, the oral presentation. This is mathematically intense work, calculus-based with physics applications. He didn’t just learn the material, he learned it well, and the proof is in the pudding. Look at his wonderful job.”

Johnson plans to continue his career, in which he finds great satisfaction.

“It’s important for people to go into fields like this,” he said. “Based on research, fossil fuels will diminish. There are better ways with alternative energy that can deliver the energy we need. This requires better energy storage. And it’s cleaner energy as well, decreasing the pollution. Those solutions are something I want to be involved with and help better our world.”

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