Aruba native Alex Van Der Linden reaches for the sky

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Aruba native Alex Van Der Linden is determined to become a test pilot in the United States Air Force. He also loves the Georgia-based restaurant chain, Waffle House. 

At age five, Alex designed his own Boeing 787 for his kindergarten science fair — getting help from his U.S. Army veteran grandfather who graduated from Georgia Tech with degrees in architecture and civil engineering. As a child, his love of flight was also inspired by his father’s work with Air Aruba.

After moving to Georgia, where he grew up, there are two things that Alex always knew: he wanted to be a pilot, and Waffle House serves the best comfort food.

For the last four years, Alex has spent his time in Colorado Springs, Colorado, at the Air Force Academy. Before he left, he Googled, “How many Waffle House locations in Colorado Springs?” and three showed up on the map.

Now graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy with a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering, the active 2nd Lieutenant is a master’s student in the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering.

“I feel my Air Force experience has instilled great time management skills, diligence, and communications skills that will help me succeed at Tech,” he says.

He spends his time balancing research projects in the Aerospace Systems Design Laboratory with his main focus on his project for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which invests in technologies supporting national security.

Van Der Linden’s research focuses on active flow control (AFC), an evolving field of fluid dynamics. His goal is to demonstrate significant efficiency benefits of AFC in an effort to make improvements in aircraft cost, weight, performance, and reliability.

After he completes his graduate program, it’s off to another adventure — pilot training for the Air Force under the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program (ENJJPT). But today, he is proud to be on Georgia Tech’s campus to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather.

And it doesn’t hurt that Atlanta has more Waffle Houses than any other city in America.