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Michael Strand
November 15, 2023

Michael Strand: 2023 Early Career Award recipient

Written By: Staff


Michael Strand
BSMS&E ’15 (MSMS&E ’18, PhDMS&E ’20, Stanford University)
Associate, McKinsey & Co.

Michael is a materials engineer and entrepreneur whose deep commitment to addressing climate change led him to develop and commercialize an innovative smart window technology.

How did your experience in the College of Engineering influence your career path?

As a freshman, I had no idea what kind of engineering to specialize in and met with most of the department chairs to learn about each discipline. One thing that stood out was how readily I was able to do that—busy professors were willing to meet with me as a freshman and took genuine interest in helping me find my path. Opportunities outside of the classroom in research and internships helped me feel confident that I could succeed in engineering. And materials science was a strong program with a lot of great faculty. When I went to graduate school at Stanford and said I attended Wisconsin, a lot of the faculty recognized the strength of the program at Wisconsin.

Which professors made the biggest impact on you?

One of my first classes, Intro to Materials Science, was taught by Professor Sue Babcock. She was a fantastic, passionate teacher, and the class got me hooked on the subject. She also helped connect me with a professor for my first research position at the university. Mike Arnold taught our transport class, which was a tough class, but one of my favorites. Mike’s group conducts fascinating research, and later, I ended up getting a position in his group. He helped me become a much better researcher and I got a head start on my PhD just from the mentorship I got from him and some of his students.

Describe the impacts you’ve had on society as a result of your contributions.

My hope is that helping the next generation see engineering, and specifically, solving sustainability issues as a viable career path, will make more impact than I can make as an individual. The largest impact I have made in my career so far is the smart window technology I developed. I have seen a shift in attitude toward generating carbon-free energy, and the need for renewables and nuclear on the supply side of the equation. There’s also a lot of room for improvement on the demand side by using the energy we generate more efficiently, particularly in our buildings and homes. The smart windows can save up to 40% of energy in your home and will integrate with intelligent building systems that are starting to hit the market. I believe the buildings of the future will be carbon sinks rather than carbon emitters due to technological development in this area.

Of what professional accomplishment are you most proud?

Building the team at my company, Tynt. We got great people and built a team that could really thrive. And with some of the younger hires, mentoring them and helping them realize they can accomplish more than they think they can. That’s something I got at Wisconsin and in my career as a student, and it was immensely gratifying to pay it forward.

What do you enjoy about your career?

Being ale to work on really challenging problems. I like the difficulty and what it takes to work on a diverse team, come up with unique perspectives, and iterate toward a solution to something that nobody has the answer to. That’s really motivating and ultimately how our society moves forward. And alongside that, feeling that the work I’m doing is going to have a real impact in the world. Sustainability is my passion and I plan to dedicate my career to solving tough problems in that space.

What do you like best?

Winter or summer in Madison?
I actually do enjoy the cold in the winter, but summer in Madison is about as good as it gets.

Fun on the Terrace or fun on Lake Mendota?
On the Terrace, just because it’s so relaxing. I love the Friday-after-work vibes.

UW Arboretum or Picnic Point?
Picnic Point. That was my first date with my wife.

Flamingos or badgers?