Nelson "Giovanny" Guecha-Ahumada
What is your next adventure?
I will be working at NASA as an intern on the aerodynamic decelerator, a new area for me, and in the fall, I will join Professor Marilyn Smith's research group, where I will be pursuing my Ph.D. We are still working out the details, but I will be mentored by NASA and advised by Dr. Smith.
What about your next adventure are you most looking forward to?
I feel like I'm very fortunate. I will be able to explore research at Georgia Tech and then I’ll be able to pursue it further in simulations, in wind tunnels...in short, I'll be able to apply my knowledge and make things happen beyond the academy. And then, because NASA has a great platform for outreach, I'm interested in helping others to pursue their interest in engineering.
Did you have any previous co-op, internship, or research experience in this area?
As an undergraduate at Tech, I spent most of my summers taking classes because, as a transfer student, I had more to make up. I used one of those summers to study abroad in Russia, and to learn that language. As an undergrad, though, I got a breadth of experience in the SSDL working on Prox-1 and the early stages of the T.A.R.G.I.T. mission [CubeSats]. I jumped between structures and systems engineering to get a broad take on the field.
In graduate school, I joined Dr. Lightsey's group and worked on Attitude, Estimation, and Control. Most recently, I was developing algorithms for another CubeSat mission, GT-1.
As far as internships, before I got my U.S. citizenship, I started with Emergent Space Technologies, where I was learning about software-in-the-loop. After I got my citizenship, I got a summer internship at NASA Langley, where I did simulation work on entry, descent, and landing - EDL. That was last summer, and, as I had hoped, they liked what I brought, so, this semester, I worked remotely for them while taking my final class online at Tech.
How did your educational experience at Georgia Tech help you to achieve your goals?
The thing that's made a difference at Tech has been the 'go-for-it' mentality. I've been encouraged to try a variety of technologies and approaches, to see what's right for me. Dr. Gunter gave me the opportunity to lead the T.A.R.G.I.T. mission for one semester, so I got a taste of leadership. trying new things - especially the ones that scared me - made me a better candidate for NASA. They liked the fact that I try things. Getting a high GPA was good, but it only takes you so far. At Tech I was encouraged to learn a new language, to take leadership coaching classes to develop my soft skills.
Also, Georgia Tech has expanded my world view. I could walk into the student center or even into a class and talk with people from all over the world. The diversity of our students, and our faculty, it makes a difference.
What advice would you give to an underclassman who would like to follow the same path?
My advice is very simple: believe in yourself.
When things got tough, it was always a matter of believing 'I can do it.' I kept telling myself that it was going to work. And just telling myself this gave me more control over the doubts I had. It's very easy, at Georgia Tech, to feel you are an imposter. There are so many smart people here. But you have to remember that you did everything to make yourself good enough to get in, you are good enough to stay.