Skip to Navigation Skip to Page Content

Teaching harmoniously balances with new MAE instructor’s hobby

Portrait of Josiah Bryan

Josiah Bryan is the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department’s newest faculty member. The instructor is an alumnus of the MAE Department and started teaching full time in the fall.

The process for composing music is not always linear; it is a multi-layered experiment, trying various melody sequences, creating the arrangements and listening for a harmonious result. To science-minded composers, instruments are variables, each having unique properties that allow only some to mix.

It’s the experimentation new Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department Instructor Josiah Bryan most enjoys. The engineer in him tries various methods to compose music, and like many engineers, he incurs the occasional, often wondrous bout of luck.

“Sometimes I hear music in my head first and then try to write it, and sometimes, I just play around until I come across something I like, imagining where it should go from there,” he said.

Bryan’s love for music was a factor in choosing where he wanted to attend college. A piano player since his youth, the Columbia native wanted a school that would also allow him to switch to music if his first choice — engineering — didn’t pan out.

“I wanted to go to a place that allowed me some options,” he said.

Bryan credits his physicist father for causing him to “grow up around math and science.” He even considered studying physics until discovering the practical applications of engineering, something he calls his “ah-ha moment.”

“That really appealed to me, to have the combination of math, science and solving problems,” Bryan said.

As an undergraduate, Bryan conducted research under MAE Professor Craig Kluever looking to maximize the distance range for reusable launch vehicles in space travel. This research later became his master’s thesis. He also played in the MU jazz bands.

“Originally, my plan was to get a bachelor’s degree and go into industry,” Bryan said. However, through dual-enrollment he was able to earn graduate student credit while finishing his undergrad, which he completed in 2010. He completed his master’s degree in a year and a half.

“Then, I was really done,” he said.

Bryan said he wanted to stay in the Columbia area — near his family, church and the woman he would eventually marry. Future wife Rachel was finishing a master’s degree in education from MU.

“I felt like there weren’t many jobs available in Columbia, so I thought I should go for a Ph.D.,” he said.

His conducted his graduate research on computer numerically controlled (CNC) milling under MAE Associate Professor Roger Fales.

“We were trying to characterize the dynamic system taking displacement measurements of the tool,” he said. “The goal was to develop a control system that could predict and prevent chatter while the machine was operating.”

After finishing his doctorate in May 2014, Bryan spent the next two semesters teaching part-time for the department. He joined full-time in Fall 2015, taking over classes for retired resident instructor Rick Whelove.

He didn’t leave music behind, but now finds himself composing more than playing, as well as blogging his work. His most passionate hobby is composing music for film. He cites Hans Zimmer as a major influence.

“My all-time favorite [piece of work] may be ‘Black Hawk Down,’ but I also love his soundtracks for ‘The Bible,’ ‘Sherlock Holmes, ‘Pirates of the Carribbean,’ ‘Kung Fu Panda,’ ‘Inception’ and ‘Tears of the Sun,’” he said.

Bryan said both he and Rachel enjoy reading, watching movies, photography and anything outdoors.