Grad’s dream taking flight

Hans Boenish tests his bicycle in the University of Washington’s Kirsten Wind Tunnel. Photo courtesy of Hans Boenish

Hans Boenish originally thought he wanted to be a pilot. Now he is exploring the possibility of an even more adventurous type of flying.


Boenish, a valedictorian in the 2004 class of Sequim High School, recently earned a Master of Science degree in aeronautics and astronautics from the University of Washington. During his time at the university, Boenish focused on fluid dynamics, spending a significant amount of time in the Kirsten Wind Tunnel.


While working at the school’s commercial wind tunnel, where 90 percent of the customers are international corporations, Boenish has had the opportunity to help test and develop products such as aerospace aluminums and composites. The native of Fairbanks, Alaska, has assisted in experiments with Boeing, NASA, Lockheed Martin, Nike and the U.S. Olympic speed biking organization.


Although he is not aggressively pursuing a job, Boenish said his interaction with these companies should benefit him in later job hunts.


Blue Origin, a Seattle-based aerospace company operated by mogul Jeff Bezos, is among the ventures that Boenish is interested in. Blue Origin specializes in privatized space flight.


Boenish also said that he particularly enjoyed working with Nike and the U.S. Olympic speed biking organizations on their product development.


Whether he ends up trying to develop lighter running shoes or more aerodynamic bicycles or even investigating the possibility of civilian space flight, Boenish’s passion is testing, developing, and engineering products incorporating aerospace technology.


Boenish said his interest in science was kindled and developed by a pair of teachers at Sequim High School: math teacher Brian Berg and physics teacher Joe Sullivan.


“They definitely fostered my love for math and physics,” Boenish said.


Though he completed his graduate work just two weeks ago and says he has too much spare time, Boenish soon will spend eight months absorbed in the cultures of the Caribbean, South America and southeast Africa.


“Those were areas that I was interested in the culture,” Boenish said.


Boenish is one of seven graduate and seven undergraduate students from the University of Washington who have received Bonderman Travel Fellowships.


As part of the fellowship, recipients must travel to at least six countries in at least two regions of the world for a minimum of eight months.


Boenish said students are not allowed to work or conduct research during their travels and each recipient must do the majority of his or her journey alone.


Although the trip promises to provide something that graduate students seldom enjoy — free time — Boenish is not without a plan.


A guitar player since the final years of high school, Boenish hopes to continue the hobby that he says helped him balance the seemingly endless hours of math and science homework in college.


With a travel guitar slung over his shoulder, Boenish will set out on an adventure to the far reaches of the Southern Hemisphere, planning to discover new cultures and hoping to make music with as many people as possible.


And maybe, away from the city lights, Boenish will look up and see the stars as he never has before — a career path stretching before him.


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