Luke Marino

B.S.A.E. 2022

What is your next adventure?

I’m going to be interning at SpaceX this summer. It'll be my third time at SpaceX. I've interned there the past two summers as well, most recently being on the Raptor engine systems team. I'll be going back this summer and joining the same team again.

After my internship, I'm going to start grad school at Georgia Tech as a part of the AE School BS/MS honors program. I'll be doing research under Dr. Mitchell Walker in the High-Power Electric Propulsion Lab (HPEPL) where I've been researching since I was a sophomore.

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

For my internship at SpaceX, I'm really looking forward to getting a new project and just learning more about engines. This past summer I didn’t fully understand pogo instability, structural dynamics or anything beyond what I learned in AE 3530 (System Dynamics and Vibration), and then my entire project was using material from AE 3530, it was really cool to apply what I learned and get hands-on experience so I’m looking forward to more of that.

I’m also really looking forward to firing my first Hall-effect booster. I've supported a lot of grad students through my time as an undergrad researcher, but I haven't gotten to truly own a project. I’m co-owning one right now, but it'll be great to have sole ownership of a project as a grad student and fire a Hall-effect thruster. The HPEPL has a great lab culture so I'm just looking forward to hanging out with the grad students and continuing to work together.

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

During my sophomore year I interned with SpaceX for the first time as a vehicle engineering intern. I was working on a mockup of the Dragon propulsion system where I could plug-in faulty components to see how that would affect the rest of the system. On my second day of work we watched Demo-2 launch and during my second to last week they returned so it was a really great experience interning there during that time.

During my third year I interned with Northrop Grumman as an electric propulsion intern where I used thermal physics framework to predict sputter yield analysis to evaluate erosion of metal material typically found on spacecraft. I later interned with SpaceX again as a propulsion intern working on the Raptor engine team where I worked on cavitation compliance to mitigate pogo instability risk. As a member on the engine systems team, we oversaw all of the engine qualification testing down to determine the instability and risk of the rocket.

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

My connections with Dr. Walker and the High-Power Electric Propulsion Lab really helped me reach my goals. Tech has a really great electric propulsion lab and it's one of the main reasons why I applied here. The machine shop is great too. I know not all universities have a machine shop with as experienced machinists that we have or may not have the large machines like we do so it’s a great asset that students have access to. Learning how to design and work with the machines has not only helped me as a student, but it has allowed me to design and manufacture parts at my internships with SpaceX and Northrop Grumman. 

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

Get involved early because in my opinion experience is like compound interest. The earlier you get started, the greater the exponential benefits you can get later down the line. I was able to get a lot of machine experience by getting into the machine shop early in my freshman and sophomore years. Then, I was able to leverage machining experience into more important roles down the line by having the ability to go out and manufacture parts for the lab and in my internships. I was able to get more interesting projects, which I was able to learn more and therefore become an even better and more capable engineer. That machine experience is incredibly useful as an undergrad. 

Take classes outside of what's required for your major. I'm about halfway through a Computer Science Minor just from taking computer science classes. I've been able to learn Java by taking CS:1331 and I've taken some numerical methods classes and learned Python which has all been incredibly useful in my internships. While at SpaceX I was able to develop an engine performance analysis tool. There’s a lot that you can learn outside of your major that can still benefit you.