Paul Way

Degree: Physics MS

Current Job: General Manager of Donaldson's Engine Liquid Filtration


Why Physics?

Paul was first exposed to physics through an AP course he took during his senior year of high school. Although he enjoyed physics, he was still undecided on a major when he enrolled at St. Olaf for college. During his college orientation, he decided to attend the physics department introduction and connected with some faculty there. To his surprise, Surprisingly, he was offered a position as a physics teaching assistant in his first semester, and he quickly made the decision to major in physics. "Great educators can have a tremendous influence on a student's trajectory," says Paul. "Ultimately, I double majored in physics and philosophy, which I found played well together as problem solving disciplines."

Industry or Graduate School?

Although many of his peers were taking advantage of career opportunites in computer programming and consulting, Paul felt graduate school was a better choice for a more science focused career. He came to the University of Minnesota and enrolled in the PhD program, with a focus on Space Physics, working with Professor John Wygant. While working with Professor Wygant and his other students, Paul picked up some hard skills around electronics, instrument design, analysis, and computer programming. "I think it's a common physics skills set that I've found plays well in industry," he says of the skills he learned as a graduate student.

Once he earned his master's degree, Paul chose to look at career options instead of continuing to his PhD. "My sense at the time was that PhD's were great for academia, but not really needed for a corporate career," he says. "Now, with 20 years of work experience, I know a PhD can be very valuable in any career, but it's been a good choice for me."

Onto the Job Market

Over the past 20 years, Paul has worked worked for two organizations: first as a Physicist for the Environmental Protection Agency at the National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory, followed by many roles at Donaldson Company, Inc., a global filtration solutions company.

At Donaldson, Paul's many roles include Product Development Engineer, an Engineering Manager, Director of Modeling & Simulation, and Director of Advanced Research and Development. These days, he is currently the General Manager of the Engine Liquid Filtration division. Paul finds that his physics degree has been very valuable throughout his career. "My background in physics has positioned me with a strong science and engineering skills set as well as a problem solving attitude that works well in any business function," he says.

Paul Way