FSRI team present on research facility along
Graduate Student Connects Passion for Engineering and Firefighting Through FSRI's Fellowship

While attending a networking event hosted by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in 2019, undergraduate student Thomas DiPietro met Nick Dow, a Research Engineer at the Fire Safety Research Institute (FSRI), part of UL Research Institutes. Nick shared FSRI’s mission, told Thomas about some of the work underway, and encouraged him to apply to FSRI’s internship program. Thomas was pursuing his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering and had been a firefighter since 2018.

Thomas DePietro

After applying and accepting an offer as a research intern in 2021, Thomas spent the summer working at the Delaware County Emergency Services Training Center, or Delco, where he assisted with FSRI large-scale research experiments. These included sprinkler water mapping experiments, testing HVAC systems on fire growth, and training fuel experiments- the one he was most involved in.

As Thomas wrapped up his undergraduate internship, Dan Madrzykowski, Senior Director of Research at FSRI, spoke to him about the fellowship program and strongly encouraged him to apply to the program. Thomas knew that he wanted to go to graduate school but was unsure of what field he would pursue. Serving as a volunteer firefighter, fire protection engineering seemed like a smart way to combine his interest with firefighting and engineering. Thomas earned his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering with a concentration in aerospace engineering from Rowan University in May 2022.

"I learned so much in my undergrad internship at FSRI and liked the idea of using my degree to help firefighters and public stay safer.” Said Thomas. “I’m very grateful for FSRI’s help in getting me involved in research and guiding me along the process of obtaining my master’s degree.”

Thomas started the master’s program at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) in the fall of 2022. His fellowship research is underway, and he is currently studying firefighter turnout gear under conductive heating. When deciding on a topic, Thomas was advised by his mentors to make sure that he really enjoyed his topic, so that writing his thesis would come almost naturally. Therefore, he knew he wanted to do something relating to firefighting or firefighter safety. After many months of brainstorming, researching, and meeting with his advisors, Thomas decided to test the thermal properties of firefighter turnout gear. His mentors are Charley Fleishmann, Principal Research Engineer at FSRI, Keith Stakes, Research Engineer at FSRI, and Dr. Fernando Raffan-Montoya, Assistant Professor at UMD.

The second year of Thomas’ fellowship begins in August 2023. He anticipates earning his master’s degree in fire protection engineering from UMD in May 2024.  

Thomas DePietro workin on research site for FSRI
Thomas DiPietro helps with demolition following experiments.