What's Next?

What's Next?
Grad school? Internship? Industry? Academia? Sleep?

headshots of the nine students who are interviewed in the article, along with the words "AE2017: What's Next?"

 

What's Next?

On December 15 and 16, when undergraduates, master's, and doctoral students celebrate their graduation from the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering, they will each be on to a different adventure. An internship to round out their skills? A military assignment? Graduate school? A new career? Sleep?  Each semester, we speak briefly with a handful of these graduates to find out what they'll be doing with that degree in hand.

Travis Smith, Ph.D. AE

Travis SmithWhat is your next adventure?

I will be taking a job in industry where I will work as a combustion engineer focusing on instability and mitigation strategies for the products of combustion instability in power generating engines.

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

A combination of a larger salary and free time. In grad school, the education you receive is part of the compensation for the amount of time you dedicate to the job. It's been well worth my time. I've learned a lot; however, I am looking forward to having that time back.

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

As an undergrad, I co-opped, but it wasn't in this area. It was at GTRI in the antenna lab where I tested material for antennae or did some FORTRAN programming. It was just something I could do, so I co-opped. I also had the chance to do research  with [professor] Tim Lieuwen on transverse acoustic instabilities and power generation combustors. We were trying to better predict the transverse instabilities, which affect the efficiency and the lifetime of the hardware in power generating engines. I also did some undergrad research at the Technical University of Munich in Germany as a part of a summer exchange program. I had the opportunity to work directly with Professor Wolfgang Polifke, who is a well-known researcher in acoustics. That experience helped me realize that I wanted to do more than an undergraduate degree. I wanted to gain more depth. It motivated me to pursue a doctorate.

How did your educational experience at GT-AE help you achieve that goal?

As an undergraduate, I was introduced to a buffet of different subjects, and it helped me to find aerospace engineering. I chose AE because it was the most challenging. It had aerodynamics, combustion, airplanes, helicopters, space vehicles, controls, structures...it gave me broader set of skills and knowledge in things I may need to use in the future. Because I could already tell that what you study may not be what you end up doing for the rest of your life.

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

I would say: get involved in the Georgia Tech community as a whole. By interacting with others, you will learn where your interests lie. Once you know that, you'll know how to spend your time. You'll find your place at Tech once you know what really interests you. For me, that became more clear as I got involved in other things, too. I was vice president of the Georgia Tech Trailblazers, an outdoor recreation group.

Julian D. Brew, M.S. AE

Julian D. BrewWhat is your next adventure?

I will be returning to AE to pursue my Ph.D. with [Professor] Marc Holzinger. We'll be continuing our work on reachability-related analysis. That's research that focuses on how far a system - any dynamic system - can go. There are equations that describe the motion of a system - whether it's a houseplant or a spaceship. We'll be using those equations to describe space applications, but, really, these equations can describe virtually anything.

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

There are a couple of things. First, because I have an NSRF [NASA Space Research Foundation] fellowship, I can keep studying without having to take on the cost of getting a Ph.D. If I didn't go for a doctorate, it would be like leaving money on the table. That's a great feeling. The second reason is, I've gotten better and better at doing this work. Research always ends up generating new questions, forcing you to choose which ones you'll pursue and which ones you'll skip. I have some questions, now, that I want to pursue in my research. And I can pursue them as a Ph.D. student.

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

I made a point of getting my foot in the door with work experience, so internships and co-ops have been a part of my education all along. The summer after freshman year I interned with Imagine Air, doing web development. It was my way of getting my foot in the door of aviation, even if I didn't do work related to what I am doing now. It gave me a chance to see what it was like to solve a problem, on my own, from scratch, which, really is a valuable experience. I also interned at the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL] in New Mexico, on the development of agile pointing space craft mission planning. That internship introduced me to guidance, navigation, and control - GNC- which is the general area where my research is centered now. I've done another rotation there, focusing on reachability analysis.

I did two rotations at NASA-Johnson: one, where we focused on atmospheric density control systems (that's the system that controls the atmosphere within the spacecraft), and, the other, focusing on spectroscopy of objects in space. If you study the spectral bands of different materials in space, you can determine their properties and track them. I built a spectral database for them. This past summer, I interned at NASA Ames. Research-wise, I have worked with Dr. Holzinger, first, doing attitude, determination, and control  systems (ADCS) work for the RECONSO cubesat, and magnetometry research to detect space debris. Right now, we're working on reachability analysis.

How did your educational experience at GT-AE help you achieve that goal?

There are three areas that I would mention: the faculty, the career opportunities, and the skills that you learn in class and in the lab.

The professors I have met here have opened up so many professional and research connections to me, connections that will help me with my research and with my career.

As far as career advice goes, we have a career center, career fairs, Career Buzz, and so many employers just visiting campus. I'm so thankful that I've been able to access these opportunities. I've never felt that my career objectives required a course correction. I always felt like things were working well.

And the work we do in the lab and in the classroom, it all allows you to build knowledge and skills. The more you know, the better you'll do on projects...and that's what lets you stand out.

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

I would say three things will help any student do well at Tech, once they get in.

First, take advantage of whatever opportunities are made available to you - career fairs, study groups, office hours, whatever.

Second: whenever you need help, ask for it. Then take it. There are faculty, student groups, and grad students who will help you through the material you don't understand.

Third, co-op or intern. Even if it's not in the area that you think you want, you'll learn something about work, about project management, about resourcefulness.

Sara G. Miller, B.S. AE

Sara G. MillerWhat is your next adventure?

Immediately after I graduate I will go to Iceland with my sister for a little vacation. I'm a huge fan of plasma (my job at NASA has been as a plasma propulsion engineer) so I want to see the Northern Lights - a big plume of plasma, really. And it will be dark for so long - the perfect backdrop. Then, I'll return to do my fourth rotation at NASA Glenn until the fall, when I plan to go to graduate school.

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

I want to be a grad student -- to have my own engine and my own projects. It sounds like a small thing, but once I receive a fellowship and can use resources and run things. I'll continue at NASA, where I can continue to play with big engines

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

I've done six rotations at NASA - two at NASA Johnson, three at NASA Glenn, and one at NASA Marshall. Each center has a different focus. I'm about to do another one at Glenn which focuses on research. I love research. But, fundamentally, I like NASA's goal, which is to make discoveries, not profit. I've gotten offers from private industry, and I've tried to consider them, to be well-rounded, but I genuinely appreciate NASA.

Research has been my passion, but if you look at what I've done, you might think it's been kind of scattered. Actually, each research project got me closer to to what I do and do not like, and I learned so much from the people who mentored me. 

I started freshman year doing research in artificial intelligence with a cognitive psychology and neuroscience professor. It was fascinating, but it was all computers and machine learning and I wanted to have a more hands-on experience...so the best day of my freshman year was when Dr. Saleh approached me after my Intro AE class and asked me if I wanted to do research on cratering records for solar systems bodies. We looked at more fundamental planetary problems and I learned a lot. My sophomore year I had my first foray into fixed wing vehicles when I worked with Dr. Elena Garcia in the ASDL. I had always been surrounded by space people before, and that's where I was eventually headed, but this research introduced me to electric propulsion. This past semester, I asked Dr. Walker if I could work with him, and he set me up with a grad student to discuss what I wanted to do. Afterwards, he set me up with a project that, during my first week, made me pull an all-nighter because we'd found an anomaly in the thruster. That's part of what you have to expect with experimental. It's unpredictable. It's not like analysis, where you can put the equation to bed for the night and it will be the same in the morning. With engines, you have to make sure you are there to make sure the throttling levels and temperatures and pressure levels are right. The great thing is, I've grown into this type of research. I feel like I"ve been there longer than I have, 

How did your educational experience at GT-AE help you achieve that goal?

A big part of what helped me was my confidence in the faculty. Throughout my time at Tech, there's always been a door open to me.  Dr. Saleh has been an amazing role model - I still go to him for advice.

Another thing that's helped me is a new organization - Women of Aerospace Engineering - that is establishing a consistent community to support women in the department. They are smart, and they are good to turn to for support.

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

Go places that make yourself uncomfortable. Fake it til you make it.

So many things I've tried at Tech scared me at first. For instance, Dr. Walker is so well-respected, so intelligent, and so involved in this discipline, I had to give myself a pep talk before I could ask him about research.

Don't wait. You are never 100 percent ready for anything you try. You still need to try it. For me, it often resulted in my being the youngest or least-prepared person in the room. But, then, the challenge was to get up to speed. And you can do that.

I don't know who said it, but I'll repeat it: if you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room.

Sergio Alfonso Sandoval Escobedo, B.S. AE

Sergio Alfonso Sandoval EscobedoWhat is your next adventure?

Starting in March, I will go back to NASA Houston for my first rotation as a grad co-op. I'll be working on flight operation & trajectory planning, focusing on entry, decent, and landing (EDL). In August, I will begin graduate school. It looks like I will be at San Diego State University.

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

I am super excited about working with NASA as a grad student. I will have a chance to be a part of something bigger, once-in-a-lifetime: developing algorithms that will be on spacecraft like Orion, telling them the right attitude so they can attain optimal conditions for descent. NASA is not just about space, it's about teaching, exploring, and showing the amazing things that are out there.

It will also be nice to be back home, in San Diego, near my family. My little brother will be starting college, and I'll be there for him. The only thing he needs to do is make the right decisions, and I think I can help him do that.

And it will give me a chance to step back and enjoy what I am doing. Five years ago, I was crossing the boarder from Mexico to go to school. Now, I'm studying aerospace engineering, working at NASA. I want to step back and see how I can share with others.

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

I have had two co-op rotations at NASA Johnson. In the fall of 2016 I worked in the Trajectory Operations & Planning Office (TOPO) doing trajectory planning for the ISS. Using data collected from a GPS, I helped plan the best trajectory with Mission Control. During my second rotation - the summer of 2017 - I worked on the structural team, doing loads and structural dynamic planning for testing. From these two co-ops, I realized I Ioved the TOPO but I also wanted to stay with traditional engineering. So I decided that everything I do will be a combo.

In the summer of 2016, I co-opped at JPL as a systems engineer, doing work for the Europa mission.
I also did a business internship at Encore Capital Group - doing data analysis. It was a great experience because it introduced me to a world outside of aerospace engineering at Tech -- a place where people did very different things and were very serious and very dedicated. I'm glad I did it.

For research, I've worked on the Prox-1 [cubesat] doing ADCS [attitude, determination, control subsystems]. I've also worked with [professor] Julian Rimoli on his transegrity research, and with [research engineer] Russell Peak in the ASDL on two projects. 

One semester I had three research projects going on, I was taking five classes, I was president of the Hispanic recruitment team, and I was an OMED mentor... I say this because I have often found that the busier I am, the more motivated I am.

How did your educational experience at GT-AE help you achieve that goal?

Georgia Tech pushed me to my limit.

I always knew I could learn but I didn't know how much effort it would take to be the best. Whether it's class or networking or researching - they want you to be the best. It's tough sometimes, but the school only does it for the best students, because they know Tech students can be leaders - in grad school, in industry, in life.

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

I think the best advice is to take advantage of every opportunity. If you knock on every door, maybe one will open for you. What they don't tell you is: maybe two doors will open.

We only have one life. You never know if an opportunity is going to come along again.

And get to know people - not just the ones who you think can get you a job, but everyone who can teach you an important lesson in your life. You do not know what each person can bring.

At Tech, I never felt like I was from an under-represented group. When I walked into a room, I just did not have that mentality. What I thought was: 'I am smart. I'm going to be the best. I worked hard to get here - maybe harder than anyone else here. No one gets a free ticket to attend Tech. They have to earn it.  I'll work hard and I'll do the best.'

No one else will think this for you.

Sidharth Prem, M.S. AE

Sidharth PremWhat is your next adventure?

I'm going to do aviation safety data analysis for the Mitre Corporation in Washington, D.C.

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

For me it's two things.

One is being able to be in a new place. One of the reasons I came to Tech [from New Jersey] was that I liked the change in the scenery and people. I've earned two degrees here, so I think it's time to see another place.

The other thing I'm excited about is continuing research in greater depth. I am interested in artificial intelligence and machine learning, and I think that might be a direction I'll take at Mitre. Part of the reason I feel so confident about branching out comes from the way Dr. Mavris boot-camped us. He threw us into problems that we'd never considered before. The Grand Challenge [research projects] that we did forced us to solve problems for clients. "Look at airport noise and see how populations are being affected." I didn't come into ASDL thinking that I would....but regardless of how much you know at the beginning of a project, there are common approaches to solving every problem.

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

Research was the main reason I gravitated to ASDL. I got the chance to work on a few projects as an undergrad and a grad student. During my third year at Tech, there was a Grand Challenge for the US Navy. I had to code in Java to to create anti submarine warfare scenarios using agent-based modeling to ensure that we could take out enemy subs. That was one of my favorite ones. I also did some CFD research with Dr. Sankar that focused on testing airfoils and another Grand Challenge that involved an autonomously operated boat. 

It's crazy because it's not just these separate research projects you are doing. It's all together. So you are doing the Grand Challenge with Dr. Mavris while you are also taking a class with him that has its own projects. You are constantly juggling the presentations you have to give the Grand Challenge CEO's -- they come at the end of the year -- while you are doing regular work.The nice thing is, that I might not remember everything I learned in a particular class, but I did learn how to reacquaint myself with it, what sources to check, how the right answer should look. Research teaches you how to tackle problems credibly.

How did your educational experience at GT-AE help you achieve that goal?

At Tech, you are not spoon-fed. Especially not at ASDL. You are given the freedom, but you must make that work for you. The school teaches you very quickly that you can't be passive, like you might have been in high school. On the other hand, you have research engineers and faculty with 10, 20, 30 years of experience doing research and working with sponsors, and that means a lot. And at ASDL, there is a community of people who know what you're first year is like. People like [research engineer] Michelle Kirby. She'd always help us change our scope, cut the problem up, so we could see it a little more clearly. Then she'd stand back and let you work it.

The other thing that was really great were the Grand Challenges. They are open-ended problems with no one right answer, so there's a lot to review. But, ultimately, you know that your customer will be using whatever you make, so you have to produce something they want. The Grand Challenge we did on airport noise required us to go way beyond traditional engineering problems. We had to talk to city councilmen, airport environmental engineers, the FAA, the airlines...there were a lot more moving parts. I had never expected to work on a problem like that and be interested in it. But I was. Regardless of the problem, problem-solving is always interesting.

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

Don't passively wait around for an opportunity to do something -- especially things outside of aerospace engineering. And do things that are outside your comfort zone. All of those opportunities you have to jump on because they help you grow. You won't notice you were learning until you step back, after awhile, and see where you've gone.

For me, I've learned a lot about management, business, and event planning, because I've been president of the Buzzbeats, a student group that does beatboxing, a form of vocal percussion. I'd been a musician before and I'd been in chorus in high school, but this type of performing was way out of my comfort zone.

Nicholas BranchNicholas A. Branch, B.S. AE

What is your next adventure?

I'll be coming back to Georgia Tech to work in the High-powered Electric Propulsion (HPEP) Lab with Dr. Walker. Mostly, I'll be looking at plasma material interaction because that's the big question in electric propulsion these days. When rockets re-enter the atmosphere we have to better understand what happens between materials and the plasma if we want to reduce degradation.

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

Just getting into the physics side of propulsion will be exciting. A lot of the research opportunities when you're an undergrad don't allow you to control the science part. As a grad student I will be able to begin asking my own questions. Also, this summer, I will be at JPL, working on an upgrade for one of the more advanced Hall thrusters. That will be exciting.

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

My first semester freshman year I got involved in the Prox-1 [cubesat] project with Dr. Spencer. Coming from a high school that had very little science beyond AP calc, that was the perfect learning experience for me. They didn't expect me to have already worked on advanced projects -- I didn't have to have already laser-cut a 3D printer if I wanted to join the team. I built up my knowledge and skills over two-and-a-half years. Then Dr. Walker  needed someone with mechanical/hardware experience to design an ion-beam dump. I knew that would teach me vacuum hardware, so I joined him. That led to an other project helping Dr. Walker to build up the propellant feed system for a jet thruster. That was a lot of work and a lot of learning at the same time.

In the Fall of 2016, I started working on another project: the magneto-hydrodynamic generator where I was designing electrodes. Ultimately we were trying to see if you could power a rocket with its own exhaust. In the Spring of 2017 I interned at NASA Marshall where I was working computer algorithms to identify mode shapes and frequencies. We got some great software out of it. This summer I worked with SpaceX, on engine-related ground support equipment for the Dragon II vehicle. This past fall, I was in the lab with Dr. Walker preparing a vacuum chamber for testing helicon plasma thruster.

How did your educational experience at GT-AE help you achieve that goal?

There is a lot of knowledge in our faculty. A lot of them have worked in the field so they can tell you how things will actually work. Dr. [Marilyn] Smith directly correlates things with how it works in industry. When you have that sort of knowledge as a foundation, it's not that hard to put all of your trust and time into a project. No matter how hard it is.

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

Number one, if you don't like coffee, suck it up. You'll be putting in the time. Also, I had a couple of really good friends in AE which was, for me, like having work-out partners. They were motivating when I was not motivated.

And, two, find yourself a community that's not AE.  For me, that was the CRC, where I worked as a building supervisor. It was completely social. Every shift there were people  from other schools working with me, and we could crack jokes. It was a great support.

Roshan Selvaratnam M.S. AE

ROshan SalvaratnamWhat is your next adventure?

My parents are coming in from Malaysia for the ceremony, so, immediately after I walk, I will go with my fiancee and my parents to California for a vacation. When I return, I have a temporary job at the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, and I'll use the time to start applying for jobs in my field.  Tech is one of my passions, and I have excelled at presentations, so I've had a great experience working with Admissions. As far as what I want to do with my degree, I'm a 'big picture' guy, so I'll be looking for work in systems engineering in  the space industry. A Ph.D. is in the back of my mind, too, so, wherever I work, I will look into going back when the time is right.

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

I'm definitely excited about getting out of school. After graduate school, I don't think I'll be as stressed in the real world. I've learned to take on a large workload and see things through. But, at a job, you get to go home at the end of the day. In graduate school, there is never a break.

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

Research played a big part of my time at Tech. As an undergraduate, I worked with [Professor] Mello, testing material integrity using cameras to measure displacement and strain in objects. Then I worked on trajectory simulation with [research engineer] Stephen Rodgers at ASDL. In grad school, I worked with [Professor] Glenn Lightsey on Cupid's Arrow, a NASA-funded project that's about to wrap up.  I did trajectory analysis and a simulation of the thermo environment. The idea was to figure out how sturdy the heat shields will need to be when Cupid's Arrow [a cubesat] goes to Venus. Hopefully, additional money will come into this project, so we can do more. It is much bigger than just Georgia Tech - it is headed up by JPL. And being a part of it will give Tech a place in a very important planetary mission.

How did your educational experience at GT-AE help you achieve that goal?

The curriculum at Tech emphasizes critical thinking and problem solving, which is great training for the work world. It teaches you to be dedicated and to be consistent in how you approach learning. After awhile, if you stick around, you see that If you put your mind to it, and put in the effort, you can do it. That rigor has shaped me in so many ways. If I get an assignment that is due in two days, I know how to attack it so that I turn something worthwhile in on time.

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

Work hard, and ask for help. When I first came to Tech as an undergraduate, it was the first time in the U.S. and my first time in a school that had so many people. I'm not especially proud of my first semester, but Tech taught me to get on the bus early and stay there: if you slack  off, that bus will leave you miles behind everyone else. There's plenty of help around campus, but you have to learn to ask for it.

Another thing I'd share is this: Tech has a steep learning curve. It's harder in the beginning than the end. That's true with individual courses and it's true over time. Most classes, you'll learn the really tough stuff right up front and then you'll spend the rest of the semester applying it. In general, I felt more in my element as a junior and senior  and in grad school than I did my first two years. I knew more.

The last thing is this: If you fail a class or don't do well, it's not the end of the world. There are opportunities to bounce back, so pick yourself up and keep going. It's not the number of times you fail, but how well you bounce back that matters.

Sarah K. Urdahl  M.S. AE

Sarah K. UrdahlWhat is your next adventure?

I've definitely been that person who's been go-go-go, mentally and physically - I played Division I field hockey as an undergrad [while majoring in mechanical and material science engineering] and it didn't get any less demanding when I came to Georgia Tech. That's what I wanted, and what I expected. But, now, I am planning to take a month or so to just relax. After that, well, I am still fielding offers from three different companies, so I will either be in California or in Colorado working as a systems engineer in some capacity with space vehicles.

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

I think the past six years have all been about getting somewhere. It can seem so far into the future, and that makes it seem unattainable sometimes. So the number one thing is:  It'll be a relief to finally be somewhere, instead of this rolling process. I look forward to diving in and working on research. The other thing is: for the last six years, it's been all about me: field hockey, classes, graduate school, research...it'll be nice to finally be in the position to give back. Wherever I end up, I look forward to doing some mentoring with girls and engineering.

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

At Tech, I did sponsored research on navigation in GPS-denied environments - basically: how do you find your way around if you can't use GPS? It's an important question for UAVs. But it wasn't your typical research because we had a real customer that expected results on deadline. We were expected to help that customer realize a goal - something that really prepped me for what I will do as a working systems engineer. I also interned at Northrop Grumman, working as a attitude control systems engineer for space vehicles. It was my first breakthrough into the field and it was very exciting. Northrop Grumman has a rich history of relevance in this area and I benefited from that legacy.

How did your educational experience at GT-AE help you achieve that goal?

If you want to work in the field of aerospace engineering, it doesn't hurt that ASDL gives you the opportunity to work on a sponsored research project. When I go on interviews, it has been great that I can talk about the experience I have actually doing research, presenting ideas to sponsors, and making changes.

One of the things that Dr. Mavris beats into you [not literally] is that you've got to know your story when you meet with your sponsors. Now, he might not have said 'story,' but he does emphasize how important it is that you be able to tell people how you got to your conclusions. That's your story. You can't just jump to the results. At some point, you'll be selling your concepts to non-engineers and you'll want them to follow you. And, along the way, you want them to feel good about working with you.

The experience tested how well I knew myself and how well I knew my material. I had to use presentation skills as well as technical skills. I'm a very logical person, so I appreciate the expectation that I give things a lot of thought before I present them. That's what Dr. Mavris expected. And, in the end, that's what works best.

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

Realistically, you have to navigate your time here the way you would any new place: find your people. Friends, classmates, faculty, whoever that is. Your experience is defined by the people you share that experience with. At Duke, I had 20 'best friends' - players on the field hockey team - and we helped each other throughout. I had good grades but not a 4.0.  At Tech, I aimed for a different experience. I wasn't going to be an athlete, here, so I transferred my competitiveness to coursework. I became friends with people in my lab - people I'll know professionally for the rest of my life. And a 4.0 coming out of Tech really catches people's attention.

Joey D. Sparta, B.S. AE

Joey D. SpartaWhat is your next adventure?

I'm going to go to grad school to study machine learning. I want to focus on robotic design development. I want to combine my AE degree with AI and machine learning because, eventually, that will put me in the position to design space robots.  I'm applying all over the country because I want a change in scenery.

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

I am looking forward to a change in scenery. I'm from Pittsburgh and it was great to come to Atlanta. Now I'm excited to move to a different location. The other thing that excites me is that, in grad school, you get more freedom and more creativity in your work.

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

I worked two summer internships at United Launch Alliance - one in flight design and the other in propulsion focuses on fluid design. After that, I was offered a co-op at NASA Johnson, possibly the highlight of my co-op experience. Since NASA makes you work in different departments, you get a different perspective on things. They even put you in places where you have no experience to force you to be resourceful. The program is their recruiting tool, so that's a smart move. My three rotations were in propulsion, EVA [extra-vehicular activity] and robotics. The robotics tour showed me how much I liked control systems. I'm absolutely fascinated that you can create something to act and think on its own. Robots really have great potential for good. 

Research-wise, I worked with Dr. Braun in the SSDL [Space Systems Design Lab]  on a parachute flight dynamics project, and at GTRI with Dr. Mick West, where we were trained to create robotic mechanisms that could measure ice underwater in Antarctica.

How did your educational experience at GT-AE help you achieve that goal?

The number of resources that are available to the students is incredible. And there are a lot of people who'll go out of their way to help you. The obvious ones are faculty, classmates, and your TA. But there's also the Career Center and the Career Fairs, the Academic  Success Center. Early on, I thought that the curriculum and the education were just to teach you how to absorb a lot of technical information to use later. But I realized halfway through that that's not, in fact, what makes Tech special. It's that you learn how to solve different problems, how to take an 'unsolvable' problem and have the confidence to tackle it. Once I realized that, I got even more out of my classes and my faculty.

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

Get involved with your education early and stay involved. There are a lot of resources that Tech offers. You are paying for them, so you may as well use them. There is a Fellowship Office that does nothing but help you identify and apply for fellowships. I started early on to find out about resume building and jobs. The Career Center helped me with the hardest part about finding a job: you don't have experience. They can show you how to present what you do have. And talk to people who are working where you want to work. Whatever course you find yourself interested in - ask that teacher if you can do research. They might not have anything when you ask, but later on down the road, they might remember you.

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