Westmont Magazine An Engineering Family
As a graduate student at Caltech, Bill Klug ’98 conducted fascinating research on blunt head trauma and bacteriophage viruses. One day his work may help fight disease by explaining how viruses inject DNA into cells.
Despite these topics, Bill’s focus isn’t medicine. He’s a mechanical engineer specializing in mechanics in biology. His computer studies of head trauma examine how large forces induce fracture, and his work on viruses concerns the mechanics of pack-aging DNA.
Just five years after graduating from Westmont with a degree in engineering physics, Bill achieved a tenure-track position in the mechanical and aerospace engineering department at UC Los Angeles. An assistant professor, he teaches a class each quarter and pursues research in structural and solid mechanics with biological applications. His research group includes graduate students and a post-doctoral fellow not much younger than he is. “I’m very conscious of my age,” he says.
He earned a master’s degree in civil engineering at UC Los Angeles and a doctorate in mechanical engineering at Caltech.
Bill isn’t the only engineer in the family. His wife, Mary Elise Richter Klug ’97, majored in engineering physics at Westmont and does independent consulting as an aeronautical software engineer. Previously, she worked for a government contractor that tests and designs jet engines. She also earned her master’s degree in civil engineering at UC Los Angeles. “I followed her there,” Bill notes. They married in December 1999.
Mary Elise first encouraged Bill to think about teaching. “I was a teaching assistant at Westmont and held help sessions for students. Mary Elise often sat in on them and told me I should be a teacher,” he says. “She kept talking about it.”
Bill developed his interest in research as a Westmont student. He worked with several physics professors on their projects and did internships at Superconductor Technologies and Litton Guidance and Control Systems in Santa Barbara.
Attending Westmont gave Bill an opportunity to build a more intellectual basis for his faith. “My young, naive, and parent-based beliefs went through a transformation,” he says. “I basically chucked everything I knew and began to think and reason carefully. Eventually I made my faith my own. I ended up where I had started, but with a much deeper understanding.
“One result is that I have learned to be more open minded, but not in a relativistic way,” he adds. “I intend to keep reevaluating my faith and to maintain a list of reasons for what I believe. I refuse to be afraid to evaluate new evidence.”
Non-intuitive concepts in physics remind Bill that the universe is a strange and beautiful place. “Knowing there is a God responsible for the world makes a big difference in my motivation to understand it better,” he says. He feels confident in letting the evidence speak for itself, a lesson he learned at Westmont.
“I developed a habit of relying on God for what I felt was beyond my ability to control or what I couldn’t do for myself,” he says. “It helps me keep things in the right perspective.”