Next Adventure: A six-month internship at SpaceX in Hawthorne, CA, followed up by a doctoral program in space systems design. At SpaceX, I will be working as a vehicle engineer for payload fairing - that's the protective shell that goes over the spacecraft during its launch.
Previous co-op, internship, or research experience?
I came to Georgia Tech because I wanted the co-op and research experiences. My first internship was with Silicon Creations, a Suwanee-based semi-conductor company where I did software electronics testing. I did another internship as a structural engineer consultant at ATA Engineering in San Diego. There, I got to experience engineering from the perspectives of analysis, design, and testing. It was perfect. Last summer, I was a mechanical design engineer working on the robotics breaking and mobility systems of the Mars 2020 mission at JPL. And, coming up, I'll be working at SpaceX. My research experience has also been spread out across very different projects. For instance, working with Dr. Rimoli, I published a conference paper in structural engineering. Working with a design team outside of AE, I helped redesign a refreshable Braille display that won an award. All of it, taken together, has given me a good grasp on systems engineering and confirms my decision to pursue space systems design in graduate school.
Most looking forward to...
I've always been interested in launch vehicles so getting experience [at SpaceX] designing a launch vehicle will be great. I'll be working for a company that is fast-paced and expects me to contribute.
As far as graduate school, I am looking forward to joining a team that will be building a small spacecraft. My senior design class introduced me to that, and I found it very exciting. I expect that that experience will prepare me well for wherever I go...JPL, SpaceX, or the NASA astronaut training program.
How did your educational experience at GT-AE help?
Every opportunity I pursued at Georgia Tech prepared me to be successful with another opportunity. And the reason is that, if I did well in one area -- like research or an internship -- people always wanted to see me continue, to succeed. So when I finished with my ATA internship, someone there suggested I try JPL. And when I finished up with JPL, I was put in contact with SpaceX. The funny thing is, I had applied for an internship at SpaceX two years ago and failed the interview. The reason, I know, is that I wasn't ready, hadn't taken the right classes. This time, I'd done the work, and I was ready. I can't wait.
My experience is not unique. I pursued research and co-op opportunities that started out small, but became significant building blocks over time. So I would advise new students to jump in and start doing research and co-opping right away. Your experiences will grow more sophisticated and more influential over time.