PhD in Aerospace Engineering
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
The best advice I've ever been given is to think of research as a lifestyle rather than "work". To gain mastery over a topic, I have to spend many hours toiling over challenging concepts and problems, constantly looking for ways to better my own understanding. I do not get to mentally clock out in the afternoon and feel good about my productivity if I haven't made any progress towards internalizing a paper's findings or a textbook chapter. On the other hand, I definitely take time away from my studies and research to reset and rest.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Throughout high school and college, I struggled in math. I got fine grades, but math took a majority of my study time and it never felt intuitive to me. In my freshman year of college, I got a B- in multivariable calculus which really made me question whether I was cut out to pursue a STEM degree. Regardless, I pressed on and chipped away at areas that didn't come easy to me. Even in advanced classes, I would regularly go back to review early calculus and linear algebra concepts on YouTube and in old textbooks. By the end of my undergraduate, I was getting A's in graduate level math courses and the material felt natural to me. I began to not only grasp every concept I encountered, but appreciate some of the beauty in it. Although not an individual event or project, my journey through math courses and personal growth is one my proudest achievements.
What's your favorite impulse purchase from the past 12 months?
I had been in the process of building my own computer for months. I spent months coming up with a build, selecting parts, and assembling the hardware. However, COVID in conjunction with a surge in crypto currency mining led to a global shortage of graphics cards. Although not technically an impulse buy, I finally gave in and bought a GPU at a marked up price, but I could not be happier with my decision.
Please describe a little about your research and what excites you about it.
I synthesize nanofilms and find connections between microstructural changes and material properties. The synthesis process involves confining an argon plasma against a metal target which is in turn ablated forming a vapor; the metal vapor condenses onto substrates thus allowing for the precise design of nanofilms. I am particularly excited about this research because designing and manufacturing materials on the nanoscale stands to revolutionize entire industries including aerospace, energy, computer science, and space exploration. Furthermore, material science is an interdisciplinary field. I love connecting topics such as diffusion, plasma characteristics, and grain/phase boundary energy back towards my background in physics.
If you could choose any other profession outside of engineering or computer science, what would it be?
In high school, I truly fell in love with ecology. I don't have a particular occupation in mind, but work related to maintaining national parks, coral reefs, or revitalizing land would be a dream come true.
What are some factors that helped you decide to pursue your PhD at USC?
I would love to pursue a career in spaceflight technology development. Although not necessary, a PhD certainly helps in pursuing that passion.
If you were to recommend to an incoming student 3 places to go in California/Los Angeles, what would they be?
1. The beach. Any beach. 2. Try to find some hikes off the beaten path that might not be super popular. There are some great ones north of Malibu. 3. K-town bbq
What is a memory you'll cherish about your time at USC?
I will forever cherish the time I get to spend with the rocket propulsion lab out in the desert assembling and testing our rocket systems. Getting the opportunity to work with fantastic people on rocket engineering is something I will cherish long after I graduate.
What's one thing about you that might surprise me?
I sang at Barack Obama's first inauguration as a member of the San Francisco Boy's Choir.
What are your plans after graduation?
I plan to pursue a career in spaceflight research and development.
Hometown (city, country):