Aerospace professional Chung Wong first discovered the world of physics at the A.J. Read Science Discovery Center on campus. Diving into SUNY Oneonta’s 3-2 Engineering Program, he learned new things, gained independence, and connected with engaged professors with whom he still keeps in touch. With great success in his field, Chung is now passionate about giving back to the school that helped him find his direction in life.
Why SUNY Oneonta?
I didn’t know much about Oneonta before applying. I hadn’t done a ton of research or due diligence. But it turned out to be the best decision I ever made. Life is mysterious that way. I arrived on campus in fall 1999 as an education major. Shortly after, I visited the A.J. Read Science Discovery Center and thought, ‘Wow, this stuff is really cool.’ Further exploration and discussions with faculty led me to enroll in the 3-2 Engineering Program. I attended Oneonta for three years and Columbia University for two, earning dual degrees in physics and mechanical engineering.
My aerospace career — first in engineering and then in customer support — has taken me around the country and the world. I have worked at GE Aerospace, Hamilton Sundstrand, UTC Aerospace Systems, and, since 2016, Pratt & Whitney.
A Day in the Life
At Pratt & Whitney, I provide customer support to airlines that buy the company’s engines. (Airplanes don’t come with an engine; the engine is sold separately.) As customer fleet director in Shanghai, I manage a team that supports multiple airlines in the China region. Before Shanghai, I worked in Hungary, France, Mexico and Brazil.
Best Part of the Job
I didn’t plan on a career in aerospace engineering. I fell into it in my first job, at GE Aerospace, a leading provider of jet and turboprop engines. When I was recruited by GE, I thought I’d be working with light bulbs and stoves.
Over the years, as the focus of my work shifted, I went back to school to learn the language of business so that I could better understand customers’ challenges and more effectively solve their problems. I earned an MBA online at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2021.
While in Brazil, my team and I developed a gas turbine engine fire shield that was subsequently patented in Brazil and the European Union. By working together and compromising, we received a patent.
Best Experiences at Oneonta
I would say I was most influenced by the people I met and the school’s quaintness. The faculty made a huge impression on me. And the small, family environment was a good fit. Oneonta allowed me to be independent and to grow as an individual. It was a great place to find out who I was in a safe, fostered environment.
At Oneonta, I experienced many “firsts” – including my first job, at Milne Library. I am still in contact with my then-supervisor, Catherine LaFontaine, who has since retired.
Overall, I recall the kindness I encountered — both from people at the university and in town. We didn’t have a car, so I took the bus up to Oneonta. And when I got off the bus, someone offered me a ride to campus. Something as trivial as a professor staying late when they didn’t have to, or a stranger seeing me with a handful of bags and offering me a ride — for somebody not used to that, it affects you. It affected me, for sure.
About My Major
I appreciated professors’ willingness to engage with students outside of office hours. I think that’s something you would only get at a small school. For example, Hugh Gallagher always took the time to answer my questions. I keep in touch with many of my former professors and classmates. The small size of the physics department allowed us to form deep bonds. I look back and think how lucky I was to have been at the school at that time. It was pivotal to who I am today.
Life Lessons and Giving Back
Living abroad has taught me that, deep down, people are the same — we all have the same wants and fears. I’m fortunate enough to see that firsthand every day.
I tell young people that to succeed, you need the ability and the work ethic. But you need luck, too — I was lucky to get financial aid and a scholarship. You can’t do it alone. I’ve seen that throughout my career. So, I try to give somebody that luck through scholarships and STEM-related funds and financial support.
3-2 Engineering Program
Imagine designing the next generation of electric cars, developing lifesaving medical devices, or creating mind-blowing virtual reality experiences! Engineers are modern-day superheroes, tackling global challenges head-on. From creating sustainable energy solutions to developing smart cities, your ideas could change the world.
SUNY Oneonta’s 3-2 Engineering Program puts you on the fast track to these possibilities. Combining curiosity, cutting-edge technology and creativity, you’ll gain the skills and knowledge you need to shape the future in a seamless, affordable process.