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Physics Alumnus Grows Passion for Research and Innovation

  • By: Sarah Wordhouse
  • Published:
Adam Bennett standing in front of satellite display

Taylor’s Physics Program has numerous opportunities for professional growth and development, including conducting research for NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and taking part in prestigious summer internships at major labs such as Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. Physics/Systems graduate Adam Bennett ’01 gained experience as a student on NASA research and Taylor’s emerging satellite program. Today, Bennet’s passion for research and innovation led to working for a start-up satellite company, HawkEye 360.

Discovering a Love of Research

As a Taylor student, Bennett was heavily embedded in professor and student partnership in research discoveries under the mentorship of former faculty member Dr. Hank Voss. This included supporting pioneering work in small satellite development, where Taylor was involved in the early days of the Cubesat movement to explore new space technologies. The satellite program has since evolved into many successful launches of experimental satellites and the spin-off of a satellite manufacturing company called NearSpace Launch, Inc.

“Taylor gave me amazing chances to help continue to grow my leadership,” Bennett said. “Even when I was a sophomore, I was able to lead the Solar Car racing team, working with other students on a project to try to build a vehicle that could race across the U.S. And on my wing, I was able to be a Discipleship Assistant. I had a phenomenal experience growing in the community and developing my faith while at Taylor.”

After graduating, Bennett sought opportunities for further leadership and considered his passion for astrophysics, but he was unsure of which direction he would head. Originally, he planned to pursue a PhD, but that path no longer seemed like such a sure thing. Bennett chose to stay at Taylor and continue the work that was already in motion, spending five years helping to build up research and entrepreneurial programs.

Because of his own change of course, he encourages students in that they don’t have to have it all figured out after graduating.

“You don’t always know, and you don’t have to have everything down in advance,” Bennett said. “It may take time to realize what you know, what your skills and abilities are, and what God may be calling you to do. It’s not always like you have a perfect picture laid. What the adventure of life is, is being willing to adjust and change plans and discover new paths that you may never have expected before. Things will come and you just have to rely and depend on God and the timeline.”

Hawkeye 360

Bennett decided to shift his educational pursuits in a new direction, and he went on to receive his MBA in Marketing and Corporate Innovation at Indiana University. He started promoting cutting-edge technologies at various companies, which led to his current job leading the Marketing organization for HawkEye 360.

Hawkeye 360 uses satellites around the world to search for and geolocate the radio waves that many modern technologies radiate. This enables tracking changes in human activity, such as finding ships that might be trying to hide illegal fishing or smuggling. This information is then offered as a commercial data service, most often serving government needs around the globe.

Bennett joined the start-up over four years ago, interested in its unique stance on radio frequency (RF) sensing using small satellites. Space-based RF sensing was once only the domain of large governments, highly restricted and limited to few people. But as the first commercial company to have deployed this type of capability, HawkEye 360 aspires to broaden access to this important geospatial data.

“It’s been a thrilling ride to see the growth of the company and proving that this is possible,” Bennett said. “The value the data is now providing to people around the world has been very positive—to know that you’re contributing and helping people that may be facing very difficult situations is rewarding.”

The satellites have even been monitoring Ukraine and other conflict hotspots, helping to reveal what can be complex and dynamic conditions. HawkEye 360 aims to be responsible and transparent, maintaining high ethical standards and carefully abiding by all US legal and export requirements related to the sharing and sale of the data.

Bennett stresses the importance of whether you work for a start-up or established company, that you choose one that abides with your morals.

“From a Christian perspective, we exist on this earth to help serve others,” Bennett said. “If we are working for a company that is not serving others, or even harming others, I think from a Christian perspective, you have to really weigh ‘should I be in that company?’ Every company I’ve worked for, I felt we were helping to serve others.”

Turn Your Engineering Passion to Reality

Taylor’s Physics & Engineering programs will give you the skills to design and build cutting-edge technology and solve real-world problems as an undergraduate. Get started now by scheduling a campus visit. You’ll get to see our labs, meet faculty and students, and find out if Taylor’s Physics & Engineering program is right for you.

Photos courtesy of Adam Bennett.