Two internships with both administrative and hands-on engineering experience
A CalTech research fellowship to study Jupiter's core for NASA's mission to the giant planet
A UCLA research assistantship to refine astronomical images for a galactic sky survey
Over the summer of 2018, I worked for Propulsion Liaison Emma Salgado and Government Mission Director David Goldstein on both the Propulsion and Government Mission Management teams at Hawthorne, CA. As Propulsion Liaison Intern, I interfaced between SpaceX engineers and Aerospace Corporation representatives to ensure that SpaceX's Block 5 propulsion system for Falcon 9 and Heavy was successfully qualified for EELV and NASA Crew missions. This consisted of negotiating qualification requirements, coordinating testing, and facilitating additional engineering rationale for all major components and valves on the Merlin 1D (Stage 1) and Merlin VacD (Stage 2) engines. I was also in charge of keeping customers updated on all Block 5 engine and stage qualification and acceptance testing at SpaceX's test site in McGregor, TX. To do so, I ran weekly meetings to brief customers on all current testing and oversaw the automation of the transfer of test data from SpaceX internal servers to customers.
On the Government Missions side, I was responsible for obtaining approval from the 45th Space Wing for SpaceX's Space Test Program (STP-2) mission by fulfilling all Range Safety requirements. This was a daunting task for a rideshare mission with over two dozen payloads and the first Falcon Heavy flight after the demo.
My first SpaceX internship was during the summer of 2017, when I was hired as the Mission Integration Intern in Cape Canaveral, FL, subordinate to Mission Integration Engineer Leonard Talerico and Principal Mission Integrator Kyle Yang. I worked on commercial missions, seeing the launch campaigns for BulgariaSat-1 and Intelsat 35e through from start to finish. This consisted of acting as a customer interface, providing miscellaneous support to the customer and spacecraft manufacturer teams to ensure that payloads were processed and integrated to Falcon 9 in a smooth and timely manner. In so doing, I learned how to operate lift equipment, work in cleanrooms, and make difficult administrative decisions on the fly.
Outside of the launch campaigns, I was tasked with writing and editing an updated version of SpaceX's Cape Canaveral User's Guide, a comprehensive internal document with all mission management protocol for the east coast launch site. This included updating maps and writing procedures for all existing company and customer facilities, as well as creating them for the newly acquired Launch Complex 39A. Finally, I conducted a magnetic survey of the LC-39A satellite processing facility, hangar, and launchpad to ensure that SpaceX's STP-2 mission would adhere to its ICD requirement of magnetic cleanliness when it launched in June 2019.
The summer after my freshman year I was awarded a CalTech SURF grant to research under Marvin L. Goldberger Professor of Planetary Science David J. Stevenson. Our aim was to learn more about Jupiter's interior by refining the range of possible sizes and masses that the planet's core could take on. The motivation for this project was the arrival of NASA's Mission Juno spacecraft at Jupiter that summer, whose Gravity Science Experiment has detected slight disturbances in the spacecraft's orbit about Jupiter in order to accurately measure the planet's moment of inertia. Starting with a simple equation of hydrostatic equilibrium in Jupiter's envelope, the planet's equation of state was perturbed to model changes in the envelope's heavy element makeup, and the resulting effects on the core's theoretical radius and mass were studied.
I wrote a paper summarizing my research called "Uncertainties in the Determination of Jupiter's Core" and presented my findings to a board of CalTech faculty at the end of the fellowship. I was also invited to JPL on July 4th to witness the Jupiter Orbital Insertion (JOI) surrounded by the engineers and scientists that made the mission possible. My paper and presentation are included below.
My first research experience was during the summer of 2014 when I worked on The Haloes and Environments of Nearby Galaxies (HERON) Survey. Led by UCLA research astronomer R. Michael Rich, the survey was the most extensive ever to investigate the outskirts of galaxies near the Milky Way. We learn much about the early history of galaxies from their haloes, where many ancient stars reside, and hope to gain insight into the dark matter intertwined with these galaxies.
Our images were taken with relatively small charge coupled device (CCD) telescopes that allowed for short exposure times, making the survey vastly more economically efficient than similar ventures. My job was to employ PyRAF software to perform image reductions, combining flats, darks, and biases to refine the images and reveal galactic substructures. The image above is a reduction I performed on the intermediate spiral galaxy NGC 4258 (Messier object 106).
The team published its findings in an article in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Check it out below!