Mollie Johnson

B.S.A.E. 2023

What is your next adventure?

I'm super excited to be working at a NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory this summer in Pasadena, CA. I'll be working on the near Earth Object Surveyor mission, also known as NEO Surveyor, where I'll be a flight systems intern. In the fall I'll be attending school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for my master’s degree in Aero Astro. I'll be conducting research with the Engineering Systems lab.

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

The internship at NASA is my first, and I'm super excited to actually get out into the field and have that first industry experience. I feel like I've been in school for so long. Plus, I know a bunch of people from my lab or friends that have actually gone on to work there full-time. So, I look forward to reconnecting with them in California.

I'm also excited to explore Boston this fall because I feel like it's a very different vibe from anywhere else that I've lived before but in a good way.

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

I have not had an internship yet, but I’ve done research in my current lab, the Space Systems Design Lab (SSDL) under Dr. Lightsey for the past two years. I've been working with the Lunar Flashlight team and mission operations team at SSDL on real missions. We take care of operating the spacecraft essentially every time that we contact the spacecraft and pull data down. We have to kind of interpret it. And we are also in charge of making sure that our spacecraft does the right propulsive maneuvers when it needs to in order to try to get to the moon. Our Lunar Flashlight research team basically works with JPL already, which is kind of how I got the internship. Basically, it has been a lot of systems engineering type work, and project management too.

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

Our curriculum here is very robust and I was able to have exposure to a lot of different topics, which was really good, even though I wasn't in love with all of them. That's okay because at least you know, I had the experience to tell whether I liked this field or not. Having that exposure was valuable. Georgia Tech is just a really great place to be in terms of opportunities and networking with industry partners. Also, with the Lunar Flashlight, we were the first undergraduate team to have ever commanded an interplanetary NASA spacecraft. You literally will not find that anywhere else.

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

To get out and meet people. I know we all can stay in our own little bubbles and get caught up in whatever it is we're doing. It's so important to have an outlet aside from just school where you can relax and be yourself. And aside from meeting people, it's also a great way to network and you never know what opportunities will arise the more people you meet.

Secondly, I would say it's important for students to know that they're not imposters when they come to the school. Being surrounded by talented people can make you feel like an imposter. Nobody here is an imposter. Everybody grows at their own pace. It's not fair to compare yourself to other people when you're the only person in the world that's been going through exactly the same things that you've been going through with the same background as you.

Finally, it's okay to be behind the curve, ahead of the curve, or to BE the curve; everybody goes at their own pace. I'm a great example of this. I've never had an internship until after I graduated. Before, I would think that everyone around me has had internships and I would feel bad about myself. In the end, I realized it was great for them, but that's just not what was in the cards for me. It worked out in the end anyway.