In Conversation: A Moment with Trevor Elliott, Ph.D., Ralph Teetor Award Winner

By Rachel Wetzel posted 10-25-2022 07:06 AM


Winning an SAE International Award is a big deal.

The SAE International Awards Program span across all areas of the mobility industry and come with a rich and prestigious history. Awards honor achievements made by professionals in industry, faculty, and students. Nominations for the 2022 SAE International Awards Program are in full swing.

We sat down with 2022 Ralph Teetor Education Award winner Trevor Elliott, Ph.D. to hear what receiving this recognition meant for him.


SAE: How did you first become interested in the transportation/mobility industry?

Trevor Elliot (TE): I have worked on cars with my father as far back as my memory allows me to recall. You might say I was a born wrench turner with an aptitude for mechanical systems.

SAE: Can you describe your career and/or education journey to this point?

TE: My career path would be best described as unconventional and with multiple changes in trajectory. I started out working with my father on the road as a delivery driver, delivering snack cakes to grocery and convenience stores. During my undergraduate days I was inspired by one particular instructor Dr. Mike “Tennessee” Jones to teach. After a master’s degree and during my PhD work, I also adjunct taught a few classes. I have done contract work along the way for various companies and agencies but finally locked on to one path, tenure track faculty instruction.

SAE: What has been a favorite moment for you on this journey?

TE: Within the past two years, I was elevated to Associate Fellow within the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), was granted tenure and promotion, was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award, and Awarded the SAE Ralph Teetor Educational Award. All of that led to my colleague, Dr. Gary McDonald, one of my most respected instructors from my undergraduate days, congratulating me on one of the most successful career years for a faculty member.  I now teach at the university and within the college where I received my undergraduate degree and those words from someone I hold in such high regard, meant the world to me. It’s the journey not the destination in this life but in that moment, I had the “I’ve made it” feeling.

SAE: What does winning the SAE Award mean to you?

TE: I have been linked to SAE formally since 2006 and have been tied to the Baja SAE competitions in some form or fashion that entire time. It means a lot to be recognized by such an organization, an organization you have volunteered so much time to, and for the work you do with students. The students mean the world to me, and I’d like to think that the award is a reflection on how they might think about me.

SAE: Why should someone nominate a friend or colleague for an SAE Award?

TE: Who doesn’t like to know they have done a good job? What better way to help someone be the best they can be, than to let them know they are doing great already! Especially if the nominations come from those that really give merit to the award: for teaching awards directly from the students and for technical awards directly from colleagues or technical experts in the area.

SAE: What is next for you?       
TE: Hopefully some breakthroughs in the areas of Additive Manufacturing and Propulsion systems. Keep an eye on our research team to see some innovative developments.           


If you know a fellow peer or colleague who deserves to be recognized in the mobility industry for their achievements and impact, check out the Fall SAE Awards. Nominations are due November 1, 2022.                  


Note: Portions of this interview have been edited for brevity and clarity.