A first generation college student, a Presidential Doctoral Research Fellow, and recipient of the Doctoral Researcher of the Year award for the College of Engineering, these are only three of the titles Troy Munro has earned.
His accomplishments alone do not define him, however. In addition to his titles, Munro is an ambitious leader, a forward thinker, and the newest addition to Utah State’s legacy of producing the nation’s finest scholars.
Munro came to USU as a freshman in 2007 and earned his BS and MS degrees en route to his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. Having just completed his Ph.D., he has now moved to the next stage of his promising career, as a tenure-track faculty member at Brigham Young University.
Munro’s advisor, Heng Ban, considers him to be a perfect success story for Utah State University.
“Troy’s story validates USU’s educational system,” Ban said. “It demonstrates how USU could take someone from an average family background, educate him and produce a top-level researcher and scholar.”
Munro’s father was a mailman and his mother worked as a resource aid in elementary school, and though they did not graduate from college, his parents instilled the importance of education in him and his siblings from an early age.
“Growing up, my parents taught all of us that education is important and you have to do your best,” Munro said. “Your best isn’t always an ‘A’, but your best is what matters.”
As Munro continued on in school, he gained an increasing desire to study the universe. His interest grew with great books like Ender’s Game and documentaries on the Apollo Program which fueled his curiosity.
As an undergraduate at Utah State, Munro spent his time working with the Getaway Special team, a program funded by NASA and USU that allows researchers to send experiments into space on the space shuttle. Coupled with Utah State’s Undergraduate Research and Creative Opportunities (URCO) Grant program, Munro was able to take two trips to Houston to work with NASA and experiment in zero-gravity.
“URCO helped set me up a couple of ways,” Munro said. “One was to give me the proposal experience and funds to pursue and get involved in aerospace research with NASA. I was able to translate that work into a master’s thesis. And having successfully gotten an URCO, I was then able to help mentor some students as a senior to submit URCO’s of their own and develop into a better mentor.”
Munro’s experience with URCO and the Getaway Special team also gained him the respect and recognition of Ban.
“I heard about Troy during his freshman year,” Ban said. “I heard about him writing a proposal as a freshman, and I thought, ‘Wow. That’s a really amazing student.’”
Ban began working with Munro immediately thereafter, and it was Ban’s influence that encouraged Munro to pursue more than a bachelor’s degree.
“I expected to finish with a bachelor’s and go work at Orbital ATK,” Munro said.
But, Ban saw something more within Munro. Ban believed Munro could be a technology leader and create the next Amazon, Google or Facebook.
“I told Troy, ‘You have the talent to be part of this. You’re at the level to pursue this. You should do it,’” Ban said.
With this guidance, Munro began the pursuit of his Ph.D., and he was quickly recruited into Utah State’s first cohort of Presidential Doctoral Research Fellows (PDRF).
“Troy has been an outstanding member of the PDRF family,” Bates said. “He has been highly engaged in program activities, has helped review undergraduate research grant proposals, and was always willing to lend a hand.”
This experience helped Munro obtain an assistant professor position at Brigham Young University, a high honor according to Ban.
“I’m very happy for Troy,” Ban said. “Faculty positions are very hard to get, and they’re very competitive. Each applicant is a very strong Ph.D., and most of the younger professors have graduated from MIT or Princeton, and they have postdoc experience. For him to beat other applicants and be a fresh Ph.D. is very big.”
Munro looks forward to being able to inspire new minds, as he teaches. He said that he chose academia because “sending things into space is less important than the experience of sending people to space,” and that the human experience is what makes it so special.
Munro is looking forward to the new opportunities and challenges which await him and his family in Provo, but Logan will always be special to him.
“I won’t forget that I’m an Aggie,” Munro said.