PhD Candidate in the Chemical and Biological Engineering program, McCormick School of Engineering
James Hedrick is a PhD candidate in the Chemical and Biological Engineering program at the McCormick School of Engineering. His work focuses on the advancement of 3D printing technologies. In addition, he is a co-founder and CEO of CDJ Technologies, a company that aims to revolutionize advanced manufacturing with high throughput 3D printing technologies that take ideas from prototyping to manufacturing in a streamlined, low cost solution.
How would you describe your research and/or work to a non-academic audience?
My research revolves around the development of new 3D printing technologies. This encompasses everything from the development of new printer hardware to the materials that can be used with them. The goal of my research is to develop novel technology that will transition 3D printing from a prototyping technique to a manufacturing one.
What have been some of the most memorable twists and turns of your career?
The most memorable twist of my career came from the origin of my current project. I was working in the field of nanolithography and trying to build a 3D printer with the highest resolution to date with the intention of making objects that have a final height roughly the thickness of a human hair. During this project, my coworkers and I discovered that what we were developing could be applied to macroscale 3D printing, completely changing the direction of my research and career path all at once.
What is the biggest potential impact or implication of your work?
The biggest impact of my work is the ability to revolutionize the manufacturing sector. With CDJ Technologies, my research is being placed in the hands of people that can start to disrupt the fields they work in.
Northwestern is one of the most elite universities in the world, with a community that fosters both world-class research and entrepreneurship. With all the different programs and opportunities for interdisciplinary work, students have the opportunity to not only become world experts in their chosen profession, but also well-rounded individuals by the time they leave Northwestern. The opportunities and growth I have experienced while at Northwestern would not have been possible anywhere else.
What did you originally want to be when you grew up?
When I was a kid, I really wanted to be an astronaut. While it is currently not my primary goal, I am still working hard to meet this dream, and made it into a pool of 500 candidates in the last round of astronaut applications.
Tell us about a current achievement or something you're working on that excites you.
Right now, I am lucky enough to be a founding member of CDJ Technologies, which is translating my PhD research from the lab into industry. Seeing an idea in your head become reality and then taking that a step further to become a product is one of the most satisfying and rewarding processes.