There are few black men and women employed as engineers despite corporate America vowing for more diversity, but aerodynamics engineer Charles Muse broke in and now breaks the mold of what an engineer should be – what he should like look, and how he should talk and manage.
Muse was recently appointed assistant program engineering manager and General Motors. Born and raised in Chicago, it was while studying at the University of Ohio that Muse first set his sights on flight and movement, and got to know the peacefulness and excitement of aerodynamics.
“When you evaluate an airplane, it’s in a perfect situation, but a car, it sits on the ground, moving across the ground. So, you have a boundary layer that moves between the ground and the car which completely changes the aerodynamic profile,” Muse says. This is an example of some of the things he says he had to learn on the job.
Muse has been instrumental in the design of the 2020 Chevy Blazer. “As much as I wanted to make the car as aerodynamic as possible, we also had to make it manufacturable. Does the customer want to buy it? I’ve become very good at knowing what the customer wants to feel when they get into and move in this car,” he says. “You have to be a master at connecting the technical side with the emotional side. I know that my small piece of the pie is important but it’s not by any means the most important.”
Still, Muse says, “From an energy standpoint, I was able to deliver an iconic design while enabling fuel efficiency. I firmly supported and made it a personal goal to honor the Blazer’s bold stance and front end. I was able to executive a subtle yet unique front air design that gave it a more aggressive look while increasing its aerodynamic efficiency.”
Over the summer, Muse helped to mentor a group of young hopefuls participating in the Discover the Unexpected scholarship and journalism fellowship program, a collaboration between Chevrolet and the National Newspaper Publishers Association. Fellows of color from historically black colleges and universities got an opportunity to hone their skills writing for black publications like the Atlanta Voice, The Washington Informer and others – they also learned from and wrote about Muse.
Recent Howard University graduate and DTU fellow Miana Massey says, “This experience has been life changing. I’m soaking it all of the knowledge that I’ve learned and using it in my personal and professional life.” Massey says the mentors have been incredible in providing insight into their own challenges, and she’s learned “just how important it is to have a mentor, someone there that can guide you.”
Muse is somewhat of an anomaly in the whitewashed world of tech and engineering. But, he says, “General Motors provided an abundance of opportunity for creativity. There are numerous available resources and networks that have allowed me to grow in my field while increasing the fidelity of the products we produce. These resources were instrumental in taking my ideas from concept to reality.”