FPE Undergraduate Student Profile: Jonathan Sajdak

Jonathan Sajdak. In 2014, he received the Dr. Harry E Hickey Endowment and the Fire Center-Siemens Scholarship, and has also appeared on the Dean's List. Outside of class, he is active in intramural and club sports. His favorite FPE class so far has been ENPF 250: Introduction to Life Safety Analysis.

Study Abroad: Exploring Risk and Safety Analysis at the University of Queensland, Australia

“I have been around many ‘things fire’ my entire life,” says Jonathan Sajdak, whose father is a career firefighter. That’s why, as a high school student researching engineering programs, the University of Maryland’s Department of Fire Protection Engineering (FPE) grabbed his attention. “I decided it was a very unique and interesting major for me to pursue.”

In Spring 2014, that pursuit took him to the University of Queensland (UQ), Australia, for a semester abroad, where he took courses in archaeology, thermodynamics, fluid dynamics, and fire safety engineering. He also had the opportunity to work with the head of UQ’s School of Civil Engineering, Professor José L. Toreo, a noted expert in fire safety and technology.

“My research really put an emphasis on risk and probability,” says Sajdak, “[including] redundancy in fire protection systems and egress.” He contributed to two projects. In one, he examined the reliability and probability of failure in sprinkler systems. In the second, he compiled data for a quantitative risk analysis that could be used to justify safety requirements in sectors such as aviation, nuclear, and rail systems. This information was included in a report created by Arup (a global consulting firm), the Australian Building Code, and UQ. Throughout his research, Sajdak became familiar with the differences between U.S. and Australian codes and approaches to FPE.

"One of the things I took away [from studying abroad] was time management...I wanted to travel and take in Australian culture. This pushed me to…keep pace with the material that I was working on and learning."

Fire Protection Engineering undergraduate student Jon Sajdak

Study abroad had personal benefits as well. “One of the things I took away was time management,” he says. “On top of working and taking classes, I wanted to travel and take in Australian culture. This pushed me to…keep pace with the material that I was working on and learning.” He adds that his experience in Toreo’s research group and previous summer internships in the engineering/loss prevention department at the XL Group in Hartford, Conn., have also helped him focus on his career path.

Sajdak chose to study abroad because he wanted to travel and earn a minor in international engineering, as well as expand his understanding of FPE. Many people recommended it to him, and now he’s encouraging others to give it a try.

“I met many people from all over the world and learned a lot from my classes and research,” he says. “It was a once in a lifetime experience that I will always remember.” There are many learning opportunities for undergraduate fire protection engineering majors, he adds, both at home and abroad, and he thinks the best thing an FPE student can do is seek them out and enjoy the experience.