Researcher Profile: Jake Sobstyl

CSHub Research Jake Sobstyl
June 1, 2016

Jake Sobstyl, who hails from Bristol, U.K., moved to the United States to attend Harvard. There he studied mechanical engineering and found his way to MIT through an interest in buildings. However, had he chosen a slightly different path, you might have seen him rowing in this year’s Summer Olympic Games in Rio.

Jake rowed with a competitive group in the United Kingdom, and then rowed at Harvard. He described the feeling of being in a boat like this, “Being on the water early in the morning, you can hear the boat gliding and, as you row, feel it lifting up so you feel like you’re flying for a bit,” he said.

As much as he loved the sport, ultimately he chose his work and engineering studies. “Getting a Ph.D. from MIT is my Olympic gold medal,” he said.

Jake joined the researchers at the CSHub while he was still an undergraduate after reading about work by CSHub Principal Investigator Professor Franz-Josef Ulm. “I emailed Franz because I was hoping to find something that would give me academic and industry experience,” Jake said. He visited campus, and the CSHub, liked what he saw and never looked back. “I call MIT my second home – and sometimes my first,” he said.

Jake will graduate from MIT with his Master’s degree this week, but he’s staying to work on a Ph.D. His doctoral work will seek to extend his models, which utilize theories from statistical physics and look at buildings as particles, to the city level with the goal of creating more resilient and sustainable cities.

CSHub Researcher Jake Sobstyl and his brother, a Belmont Hill School rower. Influenced by the experiences gained from helping Prof. Ulm teach an undergraduate course of solid mechanics, after joining MIT, Jake decided not to let go entirely his passion for rowing by volunteering as an assistant coach at Belmont Hill School’s rowing team in Belmont, Mass.

If he could add more hours to a day, he would devote his extra time to painting and philosophy. While he believes that art extends beyond that realms of beauty to open the wings of his soul to bring out charm and gaiety in his life, he was always drawn toward the “logic and explicit answers” that math and science have the potential to offer.

His fascination with engineering began in his childhood. He would spend all his pocket money on Lego sets that, as he recalls, led to unique adventures that sparked his enthusiasm in cars. This later converted into his interests in sustainable and resilient infrastructure. “Engineering brings the knowledge into practice and allows you to make a big difference,” he said.