Systems Engineer at NASA

 
 

As an undergraduate student I spent a summer working for JPL  (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) which is near cal-tech and is a division of NASA. I was on a team responsible for generating hypothetical missions to Mars targeting a precursor mission to humans visiting the red planet. 

The final output from our team was a report, which probably ended up in a big pile of intern reports. What was amazing for us as little science nerds was being exposed to a number of technologies, and with them, the people who developed them, many of which are world class experts in their field of research.

My role on the team was communications and computation, for a robot that could go to mars and communicate back to earth. We visited the massive satellite dishes in the desert where signals from Mars are received, and met with researchers developing everything from pocket sized nuclear generators, to ion-propulsion thrusters. 

As students, we learned about sensors that can detect hexavalent chromium and all about the irregular magnetic fields of mars, but the real lesson was seeing how top-notch scientist explore the unknown. Most of them delight in not knowing the answers, and have an optimism about finding them that is contagious.