Hometown: Wichita, Kansas, USA
BS, Astronautical Engineering, USC
PhD Candidate, Astronautical Engineering, USC
I grew to love the ASTE department during my undergraduate years – a close, tight-knit community where I felt I really belonged. More importantly, however, I began doing research with a professor in the department during undergrad, and I enjoyed it so much that he is my advisor now. Staying at USC made the transition to graduate school really easy, as I’ve now lived in Los Angeles for four years and loved every minute of it, while maintaining a number of the connections I have made with people and companies in the area. There’s no better place to be than Southern California when it comes to the space industry!
Again, my situation is unique because I spent my undergrad years here, but I am continually surprised at how well USC collaborates with the surrounding community. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement that has opened doors for advanced research and innovation.
I work with the Air Force Research Laboratory out of Edwards Air Force Base to model advanced monopropellant thruster systems. In particular, I’m currently conducting reactive molecular dynamics simulations to better understand the thermal effects on the catalytic decomposition of the propellants. Some of the advanced fuels being developed there are extremely complex chemically, which makes it a challenge to model effectively.
I have been doing research with my advisor, Dr. Joseph Wang, since my sophomore year as an undergrad. He helped cultivate my interest in research and simulation, and it is largely because of conversations with him that I decided to stay here for my Ph.D. I later found out that he nominated me for the Viterbi Fellowship as part of my application for grad school at USC, which has been a tremendous blessing. Dr. Wang also established the connection for me to work with the AFRL, and I’ve never felt more at home working on a project.
I’m a die-hard USC sports fan, and I enjoy supporting all of our athletics. The USC football experience is obviously unparalleled, but some of the other teams like tennis and water polo are the best in the nation and really enjoyable to watch. Also, the men’s basketball team is starting to get some much-deserved attention!
Meeting all the different people! I moved to Glendale this year, and my roommates are in the music industry and currently play for artists like Big Sean and Justin Bieber, so being immersed in the entertainment epicenter of the world is incredibly eye-opening for an engineer. I love being able to go home at the end of the day and hear them make music in the studio!
I intend to work in industry somewhere in Southern California. Graduation is several years away for me, and the space industry is rapidly evolving, so I’m keeping my options open and preparing myself to be a useful tool for expanding our reach in the universe. It’s an exciting time for astronautical engineering!