After six spirited years at UT, I graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering and my Bachelor of Arts in Plan II on May 20, 1995. One week later I married fellow Longhorn and Architecture graduate, Julia Cook, and shortly thereafter we moved to Palo Alto. I ultimately defended my thesis on the morning of Wednesday, November 8, 2000, after staying awake practically all night watching the returns from Florida in the Presidential Election that had occurred the day before. My doctoral dissertation was on the topic of diode-laser-based gas sensors for industrial applications, and along the way I picked up a Master’s degree, a Ph.D. Minor in Electrical Engineering, two patents, and a handful of publications in scientific journals. Most importantly, I earned official co-inventor status for the creation of our daughter, Evelyn, in June 1999.
I started a new job one week after my thesis defense at a start-up making laser-based gas-sensing instrumentation in Southern California. The boom in the late 1990’s that engulfed Stanford and Silicon Valley burst just as I joined the company, causing capital expenditures and venture capital to dry up. We struggled through the long workdays and late paychecks, eventually achieving stability with long-term R&D contracts and product sales. I then joined the RAND Corporation in August 2004 to use my technical background to solve public policy problems.
My present work gives me the opportunity to work with high-level administration officials to analyze problems ranging from the erosion of the U.S. manufacturing base, to the environment and national security. We added our son, David, to the family in August 2002, and have become active members of our community. Julia is President of the booster club for our daughter’s elementary school, while I coach my daughter’s soccer team and serve on the board of The Hope Street Group, a nationwide 501(c)3 non-profit and non-partisan organization dedicated to expanding economic opportunity in a growing economy. Though we have been in California for ten years, we find ourselves missing important things like fireflies, humidity, real BBQ, hot nights, and ample parking. UT and Texas are still very much a part of our lives. Hook ‘em!
Update: Michael Webber is back in Austin now, as an Assistant Professor in the University of Texas Mechanical Engineering Department. He is the Associate Director of the Center for Intertational Energy and Environmental Policy.