Though they never went to college themselves, Jonathan Brooks’s grandparents had a special place in their hearts for UF. It started even before their son, Brooks’s father, attended the university and became the first member of the family to achieve a college degree, and it certainly started well before their grandson was hired as an instructional assistant professor for the MAE department. It started in the 1950s when Brooks’s grandfather, a carpenter, would get paid partially in football tickets while working for people associated with the university.
“I asked my grandmother when I got hired here, I said, ‘When you were driving up to Gainesville for those football games, and no one in the family had ever even been to college, could you have imagined that eventually, 60 years later, your grandson would be a faculty member?’ She said, ‘No, not in a million years. Wasn’t even within the realm of possibility,’” Brooks said. “So that’s a really cool gig for me, getting to work at the University of Florida.”
Brooks joined the MAE faculty in 2018 after having earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. all at UF. He jokes that once they wouldn’t let him do any more school, he just resorted to getting a job at school. He mostly lectures about numerical methods and control systems, the latter of which he describes as his “first love.”
“It’s definitely very interesting because I have memories in all of these different classrooms as a student,” he said. “It’s very, very interesting being on the other side.”
When he was a student, he planned to use his expertise in controls and optimization to work towards building smart cities and power grids for a more efficient future. For his Ph.D., he wrote his thesis on providing ancillary service to the power grid through optimal demand-side coordination. Though at the time he didn’t see lecturing as part of his destiny, he now feels that he can make a significant impact on the future through his students.
“I suppose now I do that kind of indirectly by teaching the students, most of whom are much better students than I ever was,” he said. “It’s very satisfying getting to see the students succeed.”
As it turns out, he has found lecturing to be both fun and well-suited to his personality. He particularly enjoys being able to have a tangible effect on the students in his classes.
“There’s a lot of great things about working here and about teaching,” he said. “I like the lecturing, I like interacting with the students, and seeing things make sense to them is very satisfying.”
For someone whose familial connection to Gator Nation traces back several generations in the past, having such a positive impact on generations of future UF alumni is the kind of honor his grandparents never would’ve dreamed of when they would drive to Gainesville for carpentry work and football games all those decades ago.
“UF is a very special place to me,” Brooks put it simply.
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January 12, 2023