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Alumni Spotlight: Hayden Nichols

By Brian Hoover, Development Officer

Hayden Nichols headshot.
Hayden Nichols, Honors College alumnus

Hayden Nichols, a WVU Foundation Scholar, came to WVU in 2016 from Herbert Hoover High School in Elkview, WV. Receiving the Foundation Scholarship influenced his decision to come to WVU, rather than an out-of-state school. Hayden finished his mechanical engineering degree in May 2020, also completing a minor in mathematics.

As a WVU student, Hayden was involved in a number of activities. Early on, he was interested in aerospace engineering, so he joined the Amateur Rocketry Club, where he helped build fiberglass frames for the rocket they were designing. A short time later, Hayden’s interests shifted toward robotics. He became involved with the University Rover Challenge, with the goal of designing a rover to help with the exploration of Mars. The robot needed to be designed and programmed to perform many different tasks, and Hayden said that everything he worked on with the project was applicable to his career and was where he gained the bulk of his experience to help him get into graduate school. 

While at WVU, Hayden completed two internships. The first was with 4-D Solutions, where he worked on mechanical design and 3-D printing. His second internship was with Leidos, based out of Huntsville, Alabama. Leidos worked mostly with government contracting, and the Department of Defense was their largest client. While at Leidos, he worked in their guidance navigation control group. That group focused their efforts on GPS navigation for vehicles, though they also worked on pedestrian navigation. 

Hayden remembers the bulk of his Honors courses being in mathematics, and the Honors calculus course was especially memorable — Dr. Goldwater was one of the best professors he ever had. He enjoyed the deeper dive into the more interesting aspects of the course. Hayden also mentioned fondly his fellow incoming Foundation Scholars from 2016, David Laub, Caroline Leadmon, Delana McCoy, and Travis Rawson.

When it was time to apply for graduate school, Hayden’s final decision came down to WVU and Georgia Tech. After much thought, he enrolled at Georgia Tech in the fall 2020, where he became a graduate research assistant in a lab.  There he mostly works in aerial autonomy, in particular pilotless planes. His current focus is on machine learning. Hayden will graduate in May 2022 and has already secured a job as an autonomy engineer starting in June 2022. He will be employed by Aurora Flight Sciences, which specializes in aerial autonomy. He will also work with robotics-related issues.

Hayden offered a piece of advice to students graduating with their undergraduate degree in May: Take fun classes outside your area of study if possible, as he did when he enrolled in the “Vines to Wine” course his last semester at WVU. 

Congratulations, Hayden! We know you now (and in the future) represent WVU and the Honors College well!

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