Since I was a small child, I’ve always been fascinated by the wonder of outer space. I also loved exploring around in my backyard, which growing up looked more like a junkyard— full of old appliances and equipment my family would recycle. I spent my time helping my uncles break down these old appliances and curious to see how they functioned; I would play around with their internal components—after a couple of hammer blows, I also learned what made them not work. What interested me the most was learning from working with my hands, the ability to truly get a “feel” for how things operate. Paired with my fascination with outer space, I grew up wanting to be an astronaut. Sadly, I soon realized that there is no such thing as Astronaut school, so I decided to do the next best thing and study Astronautical Engineering—which allowed me the ability to study and design spacecraft and their environments.
I completed my undergraduate studies with a Bachelor of Science degree in Astronautical Engineering (Class of 2019) and am now completing my Masters of Science degree in the same field. I couldn’t be where I am today without the support of my friends and family, and scholarship programs that helped along the way, especially the Caldwell scholarship. Every semester I looked forward to their lunch-ins where I would connect with retired faculty and scholars of the Caldwell program. It was a chance to connect with them in a casual setting and share our experiences and growth throughout the years.
I am currently working as a Test Engineer at a small, start-up company— Phase Four. Since it’s a small team, all employees wear many but my favorite hat to wear is that of a problem-solver. Whenever a piece of equipment or an experiment is not functioning the way it is expected to, I can get my hands dirty and troubleshoot the situation. Whether it’s fabricating parts, assembling and disassembling equipment, or mechanical design, I get to work with my hands & learn from experience. Furthermore, it allows me to fail, evaluate the situation, and grow from my mistakes.
Phase Four is a great opportunity to gain a wide variety of skills quickly compared to larger engineering companies, but this comes at the cost of devoting oneself to the success of the company and teamwork. Work hours can be hectic, unexpected, and life-work balance is hard to accomplish especially when working my primary role as a Test Engineer and simultaneously completing my Master’s program, but there is never a dull moment. Even though some nights I may not get much sleep, I wouldn’t trade it for anything—well maybe for an astronaut training school. When I get to apply what learn from my coursework to my tasks at Phase Four, I feel a great sense of accomplishment and it motivates me to continue towards my professional development and growth as an engineer.
My professional goal is to one day work on an interplanetary mission. I am currently focusing on human spaceflight for my Master’s program, and hope to one day apply this knowledge to a manned mission to Mars and beyond (NASA, JPL, SpaceX). Although engineering a spacecraft to survive another planet is an amazing feat, I hope to do even more with my career. I want to retire from my engineering career some 30 years from now and work as a math & science teacher in the community where I was raised— inspiring the next generations of doctors, engineers, and more.
In late 2020, I had an unbelievable opportunity to load propellant into two thrusters before their launch out of Cape Canaveral, Florida. I was able to help build these one-of-a-kind thrusters which use radio frequencies to create plasma to propel satellites in Earth’s orbit. Growing up I would have never thought that I, a kid from South Central Los Angeles, born from parents who risked everything by coming to a new country with little more than the clothes on their backs, would have the opportunity to send hardware into space.
Falcon 9 Transporter 1 Pictures
Thrusters built by Carlos Marin
View full SpaceX mission orbit here.