Current Job Title:
Southwest Research Institute
Describe your current job:
At Southwest Research Institute, I work in the Space Science and Space Engineering Department. My work includes engineering lighter than air vehicle platforms and designing, building, and testing satellite components. For the lighter than air vehicles, I design gondolas and flight performance measurement tools to be flown on large stratospheric balloons. With the data collected from these flight, I look at the performance of the vehicle and how to design better structures and test equipment for future flights. With the satellites, I am working with a large team of engineers that are developing an instrument to go on the NASA Europa Clipper Flight and NASA Lucy Flight. My work includes doing a thermal analysis of the electronics boards, acquiring parts for a mock-up of the flight instrument, and developing test subjects to be used in thermal and vibrational testing.
What is the most rewarding and the most challenging part of your job?
At Southwest Research Institute, we are a non-profit research institution that takes on some of the most difficult challenges seen in the industry and in research. Nothing is more satisfying than designing something that only has one chance of success in the stratosphere or space. My coworkers are all equally enthusiastic of the work we perform and when many people come together with the same level of passion to create something truly amazing, that is the most satisfying part of my job.
What experiences impacted the choice of your career path?
Doorways of opportunity will present themselves as you progress in your college career, the difference will be if you take that opportunity or not. For me, my undergraduate senior project was my first opportunity working with scientific balloons. This opportunity gave me some experience in the subject, which allowed me to work on a research project funded by the National Science Foundation. The research would further my knowledge of scientific ballooning and allowed me to use part of the research for my master thesis. Following my master thesis, it opened the pathway to work at Southwest Research Institute under their Lighter than Air vehicle section. I never would have guessed I would be working on stratospheric balloons now, but sometimes just taking an opportunity is something that can set you up with a job you will love down the road.
What advice do you have for others pursuing a career similar to yours?
In engineering, you work as teams and learn from one another. The best advice I can give is to form a team early on in your college career and focus on making the college work your job. Work that 8 to 5 during the week together and bounce ideas off of each other. Someone on your team will be stronger than you in a certain subject and vice versa, the key it is to learn from them and keep building your weaknesses. I couldn't imagine trying to go through an engineering degree without a core group of team mates.