Faculty Mentors

Dr. William Emfinger
Faculty Advisor

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering
Director R&D: Permobil SmartDrive
5425 Crossings Blvd
Antioch TN 37013

Vanderbilt School of Engineering Faculty Page

William served as a Graduate Student Mentor for VADL from 2013-2015. His interests are in Integrated software and systems engineering for complex, real-time cyber-physical systems, with applications in both spacecrafts and complex rehabilitation systems; model-based engineering tool-suites for decreasing barrier-to-entry for complex, reliable, and distributed system development, analysis, deployment, and management.

Mr. Mark Thelen
VADL Laboratory Manager

Mechanical Engineer, Department of Mechanical Engineering

Mark Thelen is the Laboratory Manager for the VADL team. He is a Mechanical Engineer that has worked in the Automotive and Aerospace fields before coming to Vanderbilt.

Graduate Mentors

Ben Gasser
Assistant Safety Officer

Mechanical Engineering Graduate Student

Rockets. Thoughts of them fill my earliest memories as a child who was lucky to live close enough to the Cape to enjoy the Space Shuttle launches. That love of watching, and making, things that fly is part of what led me into mechanical engineering, and although my career as an engineer has led me into the design of assistive and rehabilitation robotics, it is my pleasure to return as a mentor to the Vanderbilt Aerospace Team for a third year. My primary role on the team is to serve as a systems engineer to ensure that all parts of the rocket, science payload, and recovery systems come together in a cohesive and well planned fashion. I also take an active part in the structural design and fabrication of the rocket and test facility components.

Dexter Watkins
Instrumentation Engineer

Mechanical Engineering Graduate Student

I started my involvement in this program as an undergrad here at Vanderbilt, and am happy to still be onboard during my PhD studies. My interests and skills are varied, including instrumentation, software and hardware design, electromechanical systems, gas dynamics, and thermal-fluid analysis. I have been involved in research projects ranging from ramjet engines, to hardware-in-the-loop simulation, to my current PhD studies on damage mechanisms in the human eye due to shock waves generated by explosions.

Adam Smith
Graduate Assistant

Mechanical Engineering Graduate Student

As a former 2019-2020 VADL team member, Adam advises the team by providing fabrication and testing expertise.