What's your next adventure?
Up until a few days ago, I thought my next adventure would be going right into graduate school at Tech. But this really great opportunity came my way, so in January I’ll be starting a new job at Northrop Grumman in Long Island, and pursuing my master’s in aerospace engineering through the AE Distance Learning Program.
At Northrop Grumman I’ll be working in one of their test facilities as a rocket test engineer, conducting experiments, very similar to the research I’ve done at Tech, but on a much larger scale and in a larger facility.
What about your next adventure are you most looking forward to?
I’m really excited about test engineering and research engineering, it’s always been something I wanted to do since I got to Tech. I’ve tried to stay in a hands-on environment and that’s exactly what I’ll get to do. I’m excited about the challenges that will come my way and the new projects that I’ll get my hands on.
I’m also looking forward to continuing to learn more about combustion and propulsion. Being at Tech, even as an undergrad, I was able to take graduate-level courses as electives and that’s only continued to spark my interest in combustion and propulsion and learn everything I could while I was here.
I’m of course looking forward to not being a broke college kid anymore.
Did you have any previous co-op, internship, or research experience in this area?
I didn’t have much of an engineering background coming into Tech, but I was well-versed mechanically and knew I wanted to student combustion and propulsion. During my first-year at Tech, I was lucky enough to take AE 1601 with Dr. Brandon Sforzo, who worked on engines and worked in the [Ben T. Zinn] Combustion Lab.
He helped me get an undergraduate research position in the Combustion Lab where I worked with Prof. Jerry Seitzman on ignition performance and diagnostics. That job turned into a place where I learned thermos-dynamics and heat transfers on the job. I also researched with different groups and professors on campus, including Prof. Mitchell Walker and Prof. Wenting Sun. Working with Prof. Walker’s group got me interested in electric propulsion, which is the area I hope to gain more of a mastery in during grad school.
I knew it was important to have a well-rounded resume, so I applied for a co-op position with Delta TechOps. January 2018 started my three rotations with them in their propulsion engineering department.
It was really interesting working with a different team of engineers and on larger-scale rigs. I was able to build and hone-in on a lot more of my skills and see what issues and tasks the industry deals with. I liked the fast paced environment and Delta gave me a lot of freedom too. They have a lot of people from Tech there so it was really easy to fit in and transition into their work environment.
My favorite part was having that responsibility to work on real-life situations and being able to act as an engineer in writing up substantiations on the work and help lead investigations.
How did your educational experience at Georgia Tech help you to achieve your goals?
The job that I just accepted is right in the area and concentration that I had hoped – test engineering. I couldn’t have gotten it without the preparation from my classes, research, and drive to apply what I know.
It felt as though I was a graduate student in my time as an undergrad because of how much freedom and responsibility I was given as an undergrad, and I’ve found through talking with my friends that that’s not the norm at other colleges.
During my interview with Northrop Grumman, they even chuckled because I had exactly what they were looking for as far as test engineering and had such a diverse background. They said that’s not something they typically see when interviewing graduates straight out of college.
What advice would you give to an underclassman who would like to follow the same path?
The one thing that gets you through aerospace engineering is having a passion for aerospace engineering. The course work gets so tough and it’s a lot of work and sometimes that’s hard to see when you’re in the middle of it. But now I’m seeing myself and my friends graduate and get jobs that we’re passionate about and dreamt of having.
Whether that means you’re coming in as a freshman and you have no idea what you want to study, but you’ve heard aerospace engineering is cool, I recommend you try as much research as you can, talk to different professors, try and narrow down your field as to what you find interesting and really keep that in the back of your mind the entire you’re here. X is your goal, you’re working towards it, and keep that interest alive.
Classes will get really difficult and some classes you may not find interesting, but if focus on your ultimate goals and seeing obstacles as opportunities, it will better prepare you for when you finish that difficult class or assignment.
For example, I wasn’t a big fan of structures but I knew that there were going to be skills and things I needed to learn in that class. I knew I wouldn’t be necessarily using those equations every day of my life, but those equations and course work were going to be worth knowing and would help me get closer to my goals.
If you are coming in and don’t know what you want to do in aerospace, the good thing is that there’s a lot of different research, co-ops, internship opportunities - all to help round you out really nicely.