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Electrical engineer grad lands job at innovation firm

Headshot of Clay Staley.

Bachelor’s and doctoral alumnus Clay Staley works for San Diego-based defense contractor General Atomics. He attributes a lot of his success to his experience as a researcher in the College of Engineering.

Recent MU engineering graduate Clay Staley doesn’t like monotony. He thrives on challenge in his work — just one of the many things he enjoys about his job.

Staley works at San Diego-based defense contractor General Atomics, where he is an electrical engineer in the Electromagnetic Systems Group (GA-EMS). He is working on developing electromagnetic railgun technology that, instead of using powder propellant, harnesses an electrical current to shoot projectiles at seven times the speed of sound.

“We’re at the cutting edge of what we’re doing,” said Staley of his work at the company. “It’s continually changing, always dynamic, and because of that it’s super interesting.”

Staley started at MU in 2005 and graduated in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. In the summer of 2009, he began doing undergraduate research under C.W. LaPierre Endowed Chair Professor Shubhra Gangopadhyay, and enjoyed it so much that he decided continue his education, graduating in 2014 with a doctorate in electrical engineering.

Staley’s graduate work focused on developing solid propellant divert and attitude control thruster systems. Industry collaboration on his project facilitated the connection to General Atomics, which offered him the job that he could take when he graduated.

“I had a tremendous amount of help along the way,” said Staley, acknowledging his adviser Gangopadhyay, Research Professor Keshab Gangopadhyay, and numerous other faculty and collaborators.

Staley attributed a large amount of his success to the helpfulness and generosity of his colleagues in the College of Engineering. “The real teamwork, the collaboration that was there, is really what enabled opportunities for me to move forward.”

The variability and excitement of his work at General Atomics ensures he never has a dull day. “I like to come in every day and do something different that requires me to turn on my brain and think, and if I’m not doing that I get bored,” said Staley. “General Atomics has been spectacular in supporting those opportunities where nothing is the same day in and day out.”