I was inspired to pursue planetary science through my mother in conjunction with my late father.
Losing my father at age 2, it was obviously difficult for a single mother raising two young girls. One night, in sort of disciplinary action for something I had done, my mother took me out back. Pointing up, she said that the brightest star in the sky was my father looking down on me -- for all the good and the bad that I would do. Since then, I never stopped looking up.
Little did she know that her disciplinary action would cost her later in life as I begged (and received) my first telescope at the age of twelve affirming my love of space.
When I graduated from college in 2005, I decided to go into the game industry and ended up at my dream job as a software engineer at Nintendo outside of Seattle. I loved it there -- I was working for a company that I loved, and the work was rewarding and interesting.
A few years later, I left the company to work on some solo projects in the game industry. It was about this time that I picked up a copy of Carl Sagan's Cosmos, almost on a whim, as leisure reading for a plane ride. I instantly found myself transfixed by its message, and my jaw literally dropped as I realized that I wanted to do something different with my life: to promote the cause of human exploration of space.
From that point on, I worked toward this goal, even though my experience up to that point had been in video games, and I had no aerospace background whatsoever. I got guidance from a number of mentors in the industry: Neil deGrasse Tyson at the American Museum of Natural History, Piet Hut at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study, former astronaut Rusty Schweickart, and Tara Estlin here at JPL, among others.
I returned to Nintendo and kept working as a software engineer, but took night classes to get a masters degree in computer science and studied astronautics, astronomy, and mechanical engineering on the side. Eventually, I enrolled in the University of Washington's Masters of Aeronautics and Astronautics program, and I quit my job to become a full-time student and wholly dedicate myself to space exploration.
When I quit my job, I saved this screenshot from my "exit survey":
When I was 11, I came to JPL for the 2004 Open House, which was only a few months after the landing of Spirit and Opportunity.
My mom took me to a talk led by a woman who was in mission control during the landing of the rovers, and she played a video of the landing. The landing video and her enthusiasm were so inspiring, that I asked the woman during Q&A, "How do I get your job?" I talked with the woman afterward, and she told me to work hard, take every science class I could and to never give up.
In my 11-year-old mind, I somehow understood the importance of space exploration. From then on, I knew I wanted to be part of NASA missions, particularly for Mars, and so far, I think I'm heading in the right direction.
I was in middle school when I first came to JPL. I saw all the wonderful spacecraft models like Voyager and Cassini. I was inspired by these achievements.
But what inspired me the most was seeing the Curiosity Mars Rover being built in the clean room. I knew that one day I want to work at JPL. And interning at JPL is a first step to becoming a full-time employee here. JPL is what has inspired me to become an aerospace engineer.
I fell in love with physics in seventh grade when I learned about
Newton's laws of motion. In three beautifully simple yet completely
profound statements, Newton summed up so much about the macroscopic
And the idea that the ground pushes up on us just as we push down on it -- mind-blowing! I was hooked.
I was inspired by the Hubble Space Telescope. I was required to do a mini research project on the telescope. I was so inspired by NASA and space, that I knew that I wanted to make a positive impact.
When I learned about the Mars Exploration Rover mission, I was hooked. I had always had a passion for robots, and now my two inspirations were combined.
Now I am working on Mars 2020 and living my dream.