What is your next adventure? For the first two months after I graduate, I'm going on a road trip to Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. After that, I have accepted a position at SpaceX in Los Angeles, working as a GNC [guidance, navigation, & control] engineer for the Falcon launch vehicle.
What are you most looking forward to in your next adventure? Mostly, I'm looking forward to doing nothing for about a month. After I get back from my trip, and go to SpaceX, I am really looking forward to seeing the things I work on actually fly. I'll work on algorithms, test them to see if they work, and then, because it's SpaceX, I'll get to see them fly. That's going to be exciting.
Did you have any previous co-op, internship, or research experience that helped prepare you in this area? As an undergraduate, I had an internship with NASA where I got my first taste of the space industry. Later, I moved on to an internship with SpaceX where I was able to focus on GNC work and see if it was a good fit for me. As far as research goes, I worked with Dr. Braun, focusing on the controlled entry of slender-body aeroshells.
What about your educational experience at GT-AE helped your to achieve your goals? The reason I came to graduate school at Tech was to get a better grasp of GNC. It's not something that is typically emphasized in most undergraduate programs, and, if you want to work in this field, you have to get to at least a masters level to get the fundamental material. I got that at Tech. It was exactly what I needed to get into this field.
What advice would you give someone who wanted to follow in your path? If you think you are interested in something, get an internship. If that works out, it can lead to more. That doesn't mean it won't be hard. I got my butt kicked all the time at SpaceX, but I have a thick skin. If your design is wrong, they're going to tell you. And they're not going to be polite about it because being polite takes too much time. [laughs] So you learn to not take that personally, get what you can from the criticism, and get ready for the next challenge. Because there's always another challenge.