Career Exploration With Design Scientist Matthew Nelson

Homeschool Strong Career Exploration kicked off its first project in February. Our students researched a career in design science and had the unique privilege of having their questions answered by Design Scientist Matthew Nelson.

Meet Matthew Nelson

Matthew Nelson is the 2016-2017 National Chairperson of the National Society of Black Engineers. In this position, he leads the efforts to increase the number of undergraduate engineering degrees earned by black students annually from roughly 3,500 to 10,000 by the year 2025. During his tenure, Matthew has managed an organization with over 16,000 domestic members, a number of international affiliate chapters and an annual budget of over $12 million. His former leadership roles include Region IV Finance Chair, National Finance Chair and National Assistant Treasurer – Special Projects. He has personally raised over $250,000 of support from both corporate and academic partners, and led a team who raised $3.3 million.

A graduate of Frank Cody High School, Matthew’s collegiate journey began at Michigan in 2002, where he struggled just to maintain a below-average GPA. After falling out of the engineering pipeline, Matthew spent several years working to return to higher academia. Matthew returned to Lansing Community College in 2011, where he made the President’s List with a 3.91 GPA and received induction to Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society. At that point, Matthew decided to return to Michigan to finish his journey and to share his testimony. Since his return, Matthew earned University Honors, made the Dean’s List, earned the College of Engineering Distinguished Leadership Award, and was awarded the first-ever Center for Engineering and Outreach (CEDO) Legacy Award for his work in Engineering Diversity.

Matthew earned his Bachelor of Science in Industrial and Operations Engineering with a minor in Multidisciplinary Design in 2015, and is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Design Science. As a Bridge to the Doctorate Fellow, Matthew plans on continuing into a PhD program, where his intended area of research is integrating human-centered design principles into diversity programmatic development and evaluation.

Matthew continues to advocate for increased resources for non-traditional and minority students, as well as inspire those considering returning to college. Matthew frequently engages in public speaking, encouraging both young and old to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math professions. Matthew also works with a number of Fortune 500 organizations to improve their diversity recruitment and retention outcomes.

Matthew is a proud native Detroiter, and credits his success to early exposure to science and technology he received through Detroit Public Schools, as well as programs such as DAPCEP (Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program) and Focus:HOPE. Matthew is a member of the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers and the International Association of Innovation Professionals. Matthew attends Northwest Unity Missionary Baptist Church, where he also serves as Trustee. Matthew and his beautiful wife Breanna, also a native Detroiter, have been married for six years.

Interview with Matthew Nelson

After learning about Matthew Nelson and his career, students researched and completed worksheets about a career in Design Science. Then students were given the opportunity to have their questions answered by Mr. Nelson.

1. I’ve searched all over the Internet for what a design scientist does, but couldn’t find anything. What does a design scientist do?

Design Science is a relatively young discipline. It is a methodology borne from the fields of Architecture and Urban Planning. A design scientist researches the way that designers approach the process of creating novel inventions for a target population. We serve as connectors across disciplines (finance, marketing, product development, sales, manufacturing, etc.) to help each understand how their decision making will affect the usability and desirability of the final product. For more information, go to

2. How can someone become a design scientist?

Design Science is only studied at the graduate level (masters and PhD). You can earn your bachelor degree in almost any other discipline. The most popular backgrounds in my program are mechanical engineering, industrial design, computer science, marketing, and industrial engineering

3. How much money does a design scientist make?

It depends on the position, industry and location. Right out of school, most Design Science graduates earn between $60,000 to $130,000. It also depends on how much experience you had before coming back to earn your advanced degree.

4. Is there a need for more design scientists?

There is a strong need for design scientists, but most companies don’t know what to call our position. Companies need people who can see a global perspective, yet possess the depth in two or more fields to be a subject matter expert. These people make great managers, because they help individual employees connect their work to the overall impact of the company. However, you must be able to articulate what you bring to the position. Companies don’t quite show up at career fairs looking for design scientists.

5. How did you decide to become a design scientist?

I was working for Hyundai Kia in the Innovation and New Technology department. My job was to help engineers come up with better ideas to put into cars. I became interested in better understanding customers so that our future technology helped improve their lives.

6. Do you create structures as a design scientist? If so, what kind?

This is a very interesting question. We create structures in the form of design approaches. We don’t focus on the final product. We help people understand how to think when they are creating structures. How will people feel about the structure? How much will the structure cost? How long will it last? Will it slow down traffic because people want to see it when they drive past? How will the structure be maintained? How do you choose the materials to go into the structure? Design scientists make sure the right questions are asked in order to maximize some value (attractiveness, cost, durability, etc.).

7. How long does a project take?

The answer to almost every question in Design Science is ‘It depends’. So much of what we do is context driven. If you are working for NASA, a project may last a decade. If you are consulting on the opening of a new ride at an amusement park, it may only be a month or so.

8. What do you see as the difference between traditional engineering and design science?

Prior to 1950, engineering was very much design based. Around that time, the decision was made that if engineers had the basic skills necessary to get accredited (thermodynamics, statics and dynamics, differential equations, …), they could become good designers. However, good designers possess interpersonal skills and an intellectual curiosity that extends beyond the numbers. Traditional engineering asks the question “Can we build it?” Design Science asks the question “Should we build it?”

A Special Thanks

Thank you, Mr. Nelson, for contributing to the education of our children as the Homeschool Strong Career Exploration Person of the Month for February 2017. Because of your dedication, this project was a success. Your service is greatly appreciated.

For More About Matthew Nelson:

New Articles and Publications:

NSBE Magazine
Chicago Defender

Connect with him here:

Twitter: @STEMLifestyle
Instagram: @TheSTEMLifestyle

One Comment Add yours

  1. Ugochi says:

    I have never heard of a Design Scientist before. Great to know that such course exists. Will let my children know about this, especially my first who loves science.
    Thanks to Mr. Nelson for sharing with us.


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