The chief engineer of a Clemson University team that designs, builds and races open-wheel race cars said that winning a Fulbright award will allow him to continue pursuing his dream of working on Formula One cars in the United Kingdom.

Jonathan Vogel is planning to pursue a Master of Science in automotive engineering at Coventry University, as part of his award from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

Jonathan Vogel is planning to pursue a Master of Science in automotive engineering at Coventry University, as part of his award from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.
Image Credit: Courtesy of Jonathan Vogel

Jonathan Vogel’s two years of service as chief engineer for Clemson Formula SAE came to an end this month when he received his Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from Clemson. His next stop is England. 

Vogel is planning to pursue a Master of Science in automotive engineering at Coventry University, as part of his award from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. After a year at Coventry, Vogel will have a yearlong work placement with Aston Martin, he said.

“It’s exciting more than anything else, Vogel said. “With the Fulbright, I will be able to receive a top-tier education in automotive engineering and technology. At the same time, I will be physically in the UK, in the heart of the motorsports valley, networking, shaking hands, going to trade shows and expanding my portfolio of contacts.”

Vogel said that his passion is vehicle dynamics, the study of how vehicles behave in motion and respond to driver inputs. He said that he is particularly interested in motorsports, especially Formula One. 

“Formula One has the most competitive engineers, the biggest budgets, the most ambitious development projects,” Vogel said. “That’s where I want to be. That’s where I’m going to be able to place myself on the cutting edge.”

Jonathan Vogel, 11th from left, poses for a photo with the Clemson Formula SAE team.

Jonathan Vogel, 11th from left, poses for a photo with the Clemson Formula SAE team.

Vogel, who is originally from Tucson, Arizona, graduated in 2015 from Catalina Foothills High School. He said that he first became interested in Clemson because of the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research and the opportunities to participate in student design-and-build teams.

Vogel’s first visit to campus sealed his decision.

“I saw the Clemson Family for the first time, and unlike any of the other schools I visited, I knew  it was the only place I could visualize myself as part of a community and it being my home,” he said. “I just knew I would do whatever it took to get to Clemson.”

When Vogel arrived, he quickly found a home in Clemson Formula SAE. The student-led team each year designs, builds and races an open-wheel, single-seat car that looks roughly similar to a Formula One car.

Vogel was the team’s Rookie of the Year in his first year, and he served as Suspension Division leader the next two years. In his final two years, Vogel was chief engineer, the primary project manager.

“There’s nothing quite like driving the cars we design and build,” he said. “For safety reasons, we run on tight autocross courses, laid out by cones in a parking lot. The cars we make can corner and one and a half Gs. It’s a little bit frightening. It’s very, very fun, though, once you’re in the seat.”

Vogel said that Greg Mocko, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, served as an important mentor in leadership and management during Vogel’s time with Clemson Formula SAE.

The program was just one way Vogel was able to apply his classroom lessons to a real-world setting.

He also conducted research on carbon fiber with Srikanth Pilla, the Jenkins Endowed Associate Professor. And last summer, Vogel helped create a tool aimed at helping researchers design better-integrated vehicles, a project overseen by Chris Paredis, the BMW Chair in Systems Integration.

”These sorts of opportunities have given me the real-world application knowledge to augment my theoretical knowledge from the classroom,” Vogel said. “The experience has helped me round out as an engineer. I can walk in the door and tackle a fresh problem head on and come up with a creative, integrated solution.”

Vogel said he was also grateful for the National Scholars Program for providing a scholarship that allowed him to attend Clemson and for its small community of mentors, which helped him make decisions and set long-term goals.

As he looks ahead to next academic year, Vogel said that he is closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation. He plans to adhere to any guidelines set by participating universities and the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

Atul Kelkar, chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, congratulated Vogel on his Fulbright award.

“The Fulbright program is one of the most prestigious international exchange programs in the world, and winning a grant is a tremendous honor,” Kelkar said. “I congratulate Jonathan on this remarkable, well-deserved accomplishment.”

Zoran Filipi, chair of the Department of Automotive Engineering, said that Vogel’s experience shows the many opportunities the department has available for undergraduates.

“We are pleased that Jonathan is winning a Fulbright award and that automotive engineering was such an important part of his undergraduate experience,” Filipi said. “I congratulate him, wish him all the best and hope to see him back at Clemson soon.”