Brenda Valdez

B.S.A.E. 2022

What is your next adventure? 

I’ve been fortunate enough to obtain the GEM Fellowship which pairs members of underrepresented groups with paid internships and full tuition at science and engineering universities. So, I’ll be interning at SpaceX as an associate engineer this summer and again next summer, and this fall I will begin graduate school at Purdue University. 

What about your next adventure are you most looking forward to?

I’m mostly excited to start a new chapter of my life. I love Georgia Tech and have spent the last four years here, but I’m also looking forward to starting a new chapter as a graduate student in a new city. I’ll be working with Dr. Timothée Pourpoint, focusing on green hypergolic fuels and testing them in various systems.

I'm excited to learn a lot about chemical in space propulsion, and to see how that area compares to electric in space propulsion, which is the area I’ve been working in the High-Power Electric Propulsion Lab (HPEPL) with Dr. Mitchell Walker for the past two years. And really finding my niche is what I'm most excited about.

Did you have any previous co-op, internship, or research experience in this area?

I’ve had three internship experiences during my time at Tech. My first internship was after my sophomore year when I interned at GE Aviation as a technical engineering intern.  During my junior year I interned with Carbice Corporation working in experimental test setups and pressure testing. They specialize in carbon fiber nanotube technology which is used in different electrical and engineering applications.

Last summer I interned with Blue Origin at Cape Canaveral, Florida. I was a fluid system engineering intern where I was part of the Test and Flight Operations Group. My day-to-day consisted of design analysis testing and data reduction of the overall project results. I built a fluid panel to do verification testing of gaseous helium and gaseous nitrogen systems.

How did your educational experience at Georgia Tech help you to achieve your goals?

The classes at Georgia Tech did a really good job of giving me a very fundamental understanding of whatever subject I was learning and from that it helped me gauge my interests. The extracurricular opportunities and student groups here really helped me obtain internships and also gain practical knowledge. I served as the structures lead in the Georgia Tech Experimental Rocketry Club (GT-XR) and it really validated my interest and pursuit of studying rockets. It also gave me a lot of practical knowledge of things an engineer should know to be successful in an internship or graduate school, but also how to machine certain parts and the importance of manufacturing. It also taught me how to better work as a team, take direction, and hone more engineering skills.  

What advice would you give to an underclassman who would like to follow the same path?

Don’t be afraid of uncertainties or not knowing everything. I feel like at Georgia Tech, sometimes you look around, and everyone just seems to know what's going on or what they want to do. So don't let that kind of thing hold you back. I think one thing that I really benefited from was poking my nose in places even though I had no idea what was going on. Opening yourself up to experiences or clubs or groups that you just may not know anything about could accidentally lead you into something that you really love.

Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help or guidance. I feel like Georgia Tech has done a good job of providing support, whether it be the student body or advisors or professors there’s a lot of support here. I never felt bad because I didn't know something or needed to ask for help. I think having that mindset is important for new students especially.