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MARTY PLYS '76: FROM MC TO MIT

Recently Marty Plys '76 returned to Mount Carmel to speak to a group of students honored at a Straight A Breakfast.  Read his interesting story about life at Mount Careml and beyond. 

I went to Saint Jude the Apostle in South Holland for elementary school. I went to Saint Jude the Apostle in South Holland for elementary school. My father had gone to St. Florian in Hegewisch and then on to Tilden Tech and IIT, and I knew that I wanted a really good high school education. Mt. Carmel had the right combination of good academics and accessibility relative to other Catholic High schools – the bus was really important. Click here to read more...
There were also some friends from St. Jude going to Carmel so I wouldn’t be alone.

I had a great academic experience. The teachers cared very much about our learning. Here’s an example: There were two of us who were allowed to do Calculus as Juniors, by sitting in the Senior class session, and then when we were Seniors, one of the teachers (Mr. Iosue) set aside his break time to tutor us during our second year of calculus. Amazingly, the book we used was written by an MIT Professor and it turned out to be the same text as used by Freshman at MIT who hadn’t tested out of it. In another example, Fr. Robert Carroll’s first year at Carmel was with my Freshman class, so we always had a special bond. He created a course called Understandings of Man so he could teach us religion and philosophy together. He, of course, went on to become Principal. The curriculum was a great balance of arts, religion, language, math, and science. There were some really cool electives. One was a semester course on Science Fiction, and it was of course loved by many. 

Mount Carmel taught me how to think and learn for myself, just as much as it taught me actual things in the curriculum. Also, the broad well-balanced MC curriculum was very important because I had very good verbal and writing skills. MC taught me how to logically organize ideas in preparing papers, like papers we would write for American History and such. I purposely wrote a paper on the Barbary Pirates in order to upset Mr. Townsend simply by writing about pirates. In writing that paper, I was able to learn about, and write about, the history of the first US Navy vessel, and tell an organized story of how the Barbary Pirates were instrumental as part of our development of diplomacy in the Mediterranean. 

These skills still help me today. It’s hard sometimes for me to find people in engineering who write well or can communicate well with a customer. The well-rounded Carmel man is a great asset in a company!

Fr. Carroll and Mr. Iosue were among my favorite teachers. I’d also include Brother Ed Adelmann – he taught us French and he became ordained when we were seniors and we were very happy for him. He let us read books in the original French and when we discussed them, he put things in terms of how the world really was back in the days of Voltaire, etc. I was also very lucky to have Mr. Dan Murphy as my swimming coach. He inspired many of us, he was very positive, and many of the swimmers and water polo players still keep in touch.

It’s hard to describe my career without imitating Dr. Evil from the first Austin Powers movie. I consult in the areas of nuclear engineering and nuclear waste cleanup. I do a combination of selling our services to customers, managing the project, and doing detailed technical work. I might write a proposal and do calculus in the same day. I manage people making computer models and doing experiments in the lab. 

My degree was a Doctor of Science in Nuclear Engineering from MIT, and as part of that, I did research into what happens during severe accidents at a nuclear reactor, like the ones at Three Mile Island and Fukushima. I have done a lot of the fundamental modeling of reactor accidents, which is part of a computer program called MAAP that is used worldwide to help people design to prevent such accidents and also to predict their consequences. This involves a lot of things that I had to teach myself, which is a skill that I really learned from Mount Carmel. 

After the accident at Fukushima, which was March 2011, I was called in the “War Room” in Tokyo to help with plans for stabilizing the situation and cleaning it up. In the nuclear waste cleanup business, I’m currently helping people in England with remediation of their most important industrial site. They have waste that is in temporary storage that must be moved into safer, more stable configurations. We analyze challenges like coping with the production of hydrogen gas from the waste, which could burn, and the release of radioactive contamination, whether it’s routine and expected or from an accident like a container begin dropped.
 
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    • Plys with a group of Straight A students.

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