Faculty Spotlight: ME's Peter Hesketh

For mechanical engineering professor Peter Hesketh volunteering is a way for his family to appreciate what they have.

How long have you been at Georgia Tech and what is your area of research?

I am a faculty member in mechanical engineering. I came in 2000 after leaving the University of Illinois-Chicago. My research interests are in micro-devices, or MEMS, which stands for micro electric mechanical systems. I teach heat transfer to undergrads and offer courses on micro devices, including an introduction to MEMS for graduate students.

I am originally from Liverpool in the UK, and studied at the University of Leeds in the north of England. I worked in London for the BBC for a few years, and then I won a scholarship to study in the United States in Philadelphia at Penn. I intended to go back home, but the professor I was working with on the research project and I made a good connection. I finished my Ph.D. and met an American girl who I married, so I stayed.

How did volunteerism become a regular activity in your family, and what sort of activities do you do?

It was originally my wife's idea that we do one project per month with the kids. We've volunteered with Project Open Hand to do the food packaging, and we've volunteered at their school with different activities. He also volunteers at the Virginia Highlands Summer Fest each year. We help with the children's game area and projects. It's a lot of fun to do. We also volunteered to wrap Christmas presents one year in Dunwoody. It was organized by the local police department and they set it up like a store. Volunteers come in and wrap based on lists the families have submitted.  

Now my children are older. Gabe is 21 and an undergraduate here at Georgia Tech in biology. My daughter just finished high school and wants to go into the culinary industry. We probably started these projects when Gabe was about eight, so we've been doing it for a while.

Why has it been so important for your family?

We wanted to give our kids an understanding of how other people live. There are a lot of people in every community that need help and we were in a position to help them. Lilly still comes with me to do deliveries with Project Open Hand. It gives us an opportunity to see how people benefit from the deliveries, which is something you don't always get to see when you help out on the back end. 

Do you think this is something your children will continue to do when they are older and on their own?

I hope it's something they pass on to their families when they get older. Gabe is in the marching band at Tech, so that keeps him very busy, but he also joined a fraternity that does a lot of community outreach activities. 

How hard was it for you to find places where you could volunteer with your children?

It wasn't hard at all to find organizations that would let our children help. Some of them have minimum age limits. For example, with the food preparation they usually have to be teenagers I think. That was the case at Open Hand as well as St. Francis Table downtown, which is at the Catholic Shrine. With our kids being older now we volunteer three or four times a year instead of monthly. It's still important to us though. Look online and you can find places looking for volunteers. Somebody always needs help.

Are there any benefits to volunteering that people may overlook?

I think it's important to find time to do something else other than your professional work. It helps you appreciate what you have and the benefits of being a faculty or staff member at Georgia Tech.