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Jess Karol '16

I graduated from Swarthmore College in 2016 with a B.S in Engineering and a minor in Computer Science. The Swarthmore engineering degree gave me a set of skills both broad in content and focused in my core interests, which I feel has set me apart in the workplace. I arrived at Swarthmore without any plans for what I was going to study, but after a few engineering classes I found that the department felt like home. I felt the community of students along with the supportive and friendly faculty provided an atmosphere where the rigorous classes were enjoyable, fulfilling and interesting.

One course I felt particularly transformed by was E58 (Control Theory and Design). The content of this course gave me a new perspective on how fundamentally systems can be modeled and controlled though feedback to achieve a desired state.  The underlying concepts of Control Theory pervaded many aspects of my life, but I particularly found interest in the connection between controls and plant biology. With my E90 partner Connie Bowen ‘16, we built a controlled environment climate cell to study and optimize water and nutrient use efficiency for Watercress crops. The ability to apply theory from course work to a real-world project was a critical step in my education and made me realize what I wanted to do post-graduation.

I’m currently a Lead Engineer at AeroFarms, a world leader in indoor controlled environment vertical farming. Our mission is to use technology to feed the world with a more efficient and sustainable agriculture paradigm. My job is to use feedback from sensors to control the environment our crops experience and optimize taste, texture, and yield. I also use operational data as feedback to optimize the overall efficiency and productivity of our farm. I find it incredible how much of my current work ties back to concepts from Swarthmore engineering courses.

In the Fall of 2018, I will be attending the Earth Institute at Columbia University to receive a M.Sc. in Sustainability Management where I will dive deeper into the threats of anthropogenic change. I know the education that Swarthmore has provided will continue to carry me forward.

If you wish to contact me, you can do so though the Engineering department.