#Eweek2024 Spotlight | Eric Nelson

Taking the time to listen and understand. 

For National Engineers Week 2024, we’re sharing stories from Cushing Terrell’s engineering talent to learn more about how they chose their profession and what makes them tick. 

Who (or what) inspired you to be an engineer? 

I’ve always been interested in understanding how things work, especially machines. My dad was in the medical field but enjoyed tinkering at home, including building a go-cart from scratch with an engine from a lawn mower. I admired this about him and loved being part of these projects as a kid.

What is your area of expertise and why did you choose it?

My specialty is refrigeration engineering, which really chose me. It was the position available at the time when I was looking for work in the Boise area. What has kept me in this field is the amount of opportunity for digging deeper into the fundamentals of the craft, and also the unique opportunity within engineering to work directly with clients. I appreciate figuring out the question behind the question; solving the root problem and not just answering the question.

What is one of your favorite projects and why?

The work we did with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) as technical experts for refrigeration stands out to me, because it offered the opportunity to dig as deep as it goes into some of the fundamental concepts of refrigeration and test long-held assumptions about how things operate in real-world conditions.

What has been an innovative, out-of-the-box project you’ve worked on recently?

Many of the coolest things are covered by non-disclosure agreements, which can take some of the fun out of it, because we can’t talk about it. But you can imagine!

Do you have a passion project or initiative you’re working to advance?

My passion is training new engineers in the fundamentals; helping them understand the science behind many of the rules of thumb that make us more efficient, but that sometimes can obscure how things really work.

Eric leads one of the design charrettes for the engineering team where different disciplines come together to collaborate and discuss design solutions together as a group.

Tell us something about the field of engineering that is surprising or not common knowledge.

It’s 5% engineering and 95% communication. Having a sound design doesn’t do any good if the drawings or documents don’t clearly convey the intent in a way that can be followed by others, or if it’s not clearly coordinated with other disciplines. Good design doesn’t matter if you misunderstand the client’s intent.

What piece of advice would you give a young person interested in becoming an engineer?

Don’t waste your time. If you’re stuck on a bus, talk to the people around you. If you’re in a meeting that doesn’t apply to you, pay attention anyway. You never know when you’ll learn something that will be helpful later, and people appreciate being listened to and can repay it in ways you won’t expect.

Eric at a Glance

  • Project Manager and Mechanical Engineer
  • Living in Boise, Idaho
  • Defining characteristics: Asks questions, is a good listener, kind, funny, and is a good father, husband, and friend
  • Interests: Spending time with his family camping, hunting, fishing, hiking, and doing anything outdoors where nothing is “breakable.”
An avid bike commuter, Eric (far right) participates in the Boise office’s May in Motion events, including the slow bike race. Here he competes with fellow team members to see who can ride the slowest, yet keep moving and stay on their bike.

Read about the other engineers we’ll be highlighting for National Engineers Week 2024!