Advanced energy has been the common thread throughout Dr. Mark Daugherty’s career—in his engineering positions and business start-ups, and now as a professor in MSOE’s Mechanical Engineering Department.  

“It all leads toward dealing with climate change,” he said.  

Daugherty first became interested in renewable energy when he was a boy growing up in Beloit, Wisconsin. He was impacted by the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, when 3-million gallons of crude oil gushed into the ocean, covering more than 30-miles of California’s coastline. “I remembered images of seagulls covered in oil,” he said.  

Daugherty earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “I studied solar energy for my master’s, and then I decided I wanted to work on policy.” So, he headed to University of California-Berkeley for law school.  

After working for a litigation firm for a while, Daugherty realized engineering was what he really wanted to do. Unfortunately, the law degree was a sticking point when interviewing for engineering positions, he said. “I think they all thought I would do engineering for a year or two, and then go back to law.”

Eventually, Daugherty returned to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to get his doctorate in mechanical engineering “to trump the law degree.”   Daugherty has nearly 30 years of experience in research and development, and has assisted in the development of numerous startups. One startup he’s still involved with is Avium Energy in Kansas.  

“At Avium, we’re working on a new catalyst to split water using electricity to make hydrogen,” Daugherty said. “You can burn hydrogen in a regular car engine or jet engine or a fuel cell, but you only get water, so there are no greenhouse gasses.”   

As a CREATE Faculty Fellow, Daugherty wants to help empower a new generation to take on the big problems, and awaken an innovative spirit through MSOE’s CREATE Institute. 

“I’ve lived on the East Coast, worked for government a bit, and lived a fair amount on the West Coast,” he said. “I think it’s our turn in the Midwest to step up and take a leadership role with climate change.” To help make that happen, Daugherty says he’d like to see industry working with students to develop products and business solutions to take on issues like climate change.  

In a class he developed, Innovation in Product Development, Daugherty put the emphasis on finding multiple solutions to one problem. “We train students so hard to get the right answer, then they want to quickly focus on the specific little method they need to remember to get the right answer. With entrepreneurship and innovation, you want a large number of possibilities to try out.”  

Because of his startup background, Daugherty said he would also like to mentor new professors “and pass on my enthusiasm for creativity and innovation.”  

Daugherty lives in Milwaukee and has a daughter pursuing a career in journalism. Daugherty has a futuristic story idea brewing for a scientific novel he plans to write someday. He also likes to travel, practice yoga and meditation, and bicycle.

“My senior design groups in the last two years have made solar-powered electric bikes,” he said. “So, I have a daydream of doing a caravan with friends, going from Wisconsin to the Rocky Mountains over the course of the summer on a solar-powered bike.”