Founder and president of Apollo Endosurgery, Dennis McWilliams is an ASE graduate. Although his roots are in aerospace engineering, McWilliams took the skills he learned as a student and cultivated them into a career of leading successful startups in the medical field. McWilliams was awarded with the Outstanding Young Texas Ex Award in 2007.
President and Founder, Apollo Endosurgery
Apollo Endosurgery is a successful corporation that produces innovative products that improve and combine with endoscopic technology for surgery use.
What student projects/organizations were you involved with and how did these groups help prepare you for your career?
Texas Wranglers, Senior Design, UT Football
The Senior Design project was really good exposure to how you manage teams and people. I still remember as team leader I had to kind of make sure the team was organizing work appropriately, and managing conflict and problems, and that’s what I do everyday with my job now.
Do you recommend any particular focus for students other than academics to improve themselves as potential candidates for jobs? If so, please explain.
Communication skills are critical, and I think that is the value of what a lot of the extracurricular activities offer. Whether that is intramural sports, an honor society, a fraternity- that interaction and networks that you build help you communicate more effectively.
Are there courses at UT you wish you had taken, and if so which ones?
I wish I would have taken literature or a creative writing course. I placed out of the basic writing classes coming into college, therefore I never got to take them and I really enjoy the subject.
Why did you choose one track over the other (atmospheric/space)?
I chose space. I always interested in space flight, robotics and planetary sciences.
What are your career goals?
I want to continue to be involved on the forefront of innovation. I think at Apollo right now, we are creating a lot of new, exciting innovations in surgery, and as long as we are doing that, I will be very happy.
Who was your most influential ASE or EM professor and why?
Wallace Fowler. He was the one that actually planted the seed in my brain that it’s not really about the problems that you are solving in aerospace, it’s the problem solving skills that are important. He would have open book tests, and he said the reason is because “I don’t need you to learn how to memorize, I need you to learn how to apply the knowledge that solves problems with all the resources- that is what real life is about.” That always stuck with me.
What was your most influential ASE or EM course and why?
Fluid mechanics with Dr. Varghese. It was the hardest class I have ever taken, and it was influential in the sense that I got an A in the class and never thought I would even pass it. I learned if you put your mind to it, take complex problems and break them down into simple problems, you can solve anything.
What is one piece of advice you have for undergraduate students?
You are going to have a lot of career choices when you graduate - choose something that you have a passion for. That’s not to say that your first job you are going to love, but as long as you love the field that you are in, that will go a long way.
Do you have a favorite memory as a UT aerospace student?
I still remember senior design class. Our project was on human-powered flight. We spent the entire semester working on an exercise physiology sensor to build the first human-powered helicopter. We would work really late at night - our system was an utter failure, but it was a fun time.