What projects are you working on at the Laboratory?
I’m currently working on several different missions, all of different size and scope. On the laser communication program LEMNOS, I worked on transitioning the “inner wall assembly,” which contained the data processing and power unit, from a computer-modeled design into a living, breathing piece of hardware that we knew with confidence could survive the space environment. I worked on process development, parts procurement, and ultimately, integrating and testing the final unit for launch. I love the hands-on nature of the integration phase, in which all your months of preparation converge on building a wildly cool piece of technology that will fly in space.
What is one goal you would like to accomplish in your lifetime?
Since middle school I have been deeply passionate about space exploration, and my dream is to help discover life on another world. One destination that has always captured my imagination is Jupiter's moon Europa, which we believe may contain twice the amount of liquid water as all of Earth's oceans combined. I hope to someday have the chance to help explore Europa or other potentially habitable destinations in our solar system.
Are you involved in any volunteering or outreach activities?
I am extremely passionate about making the aerospace industry accessible and interesting to students that may be intimidated by the “rocket scientist” mythos of the field. As far as engineering students go, I had a bit of a non-traditional background. I long had felt more comfortable with the written word than an equation, and my dream of working on space missions was brought to fruition only through extensive tutoring and passionate mentors. I want students with potentially similar non-standard skill sets or backgrounds to realize that there is not only a place, but a need for them in this industry.
Today, I speak to audiences across the country — including K-12 students, veterans’ groups, and non-STEM professionals — about recent developments in the space industry and how we actually design and test these spacecraft to explore the far reaches of our universe. Space exploration is a multidisciplinary effort that draws on the interests and skills from every corner of human achievement. My goal is to empower these community members and students to see themselves as infinitely capable of contributing to this field, just as my early mentors did for me.