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Simulation and Software Engineer

NASA Johnson Space Center

UCF Degrees in Mechanical Engineering

I’m currently a Simulation and Software Engineer at the Virtual Reality Training Lab (VRL) at NASA Johnson Space Center. Among many, one of my main responsibilities is modifying, maintaining and deploying the Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue (SAFER) System virtual simulation for astronaut training. SAFER is a jetpack system that in the event of several system failures, astronauts can deploy during spacewalks to self-rescue and fly back to structure. I also help conduct simulation analyses based on ISS program need using the SAFER simulation. Within the VRL, I take part in developing, maintaining and deploying graphical tools to help spacewalk (EVA) task engineers develop spacewalk procedures for use here on ground and for use on board the ISS. One of my latest projects has been helping lead and develop a Space Force Fly Around Operation simulation for training.

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

My proudest accomplishment was being able to combine all my education and interests and landing my current position. One of my biggest fears during undergrad and even grad school was not being able to find a job that encompassed all my interests and the education I worked so hard on. At one point I felt my interests were too specific and I would have to settle. An Aerospace Engineer with a Modeling and Simulation Masters and a focus on Virtual Reality for training environments. Who would have thought I’d be doing EXACTLY that!

What is the hottest trend in your field right now?

Virtual and Augmented Reality. Although the VRL has been using the technology for astronaut training since the early 90s, it has just recently become more affordable for entertainment. It’s amazing to be able to see how the technology has evolved and how it is being adopted in so many different fields today.

What are your future professional aspirations?

I want to continue learning as much as possible about Human Space Flight and Space Operations. For a while my focus was on airplanes and I knew very little about space. I want to continue supporting our mission in human space flight, science and exploration.  I’m excited to experience and be part of the commercial crew program and the Artemis program, and maybe someday even be able to go to space and walk on the moon.

How did UCF prepare you for your career?

When I started my master’s at UCF, I didn’t really know where I was headed. I was working full time and going to school full time. It wasn’t easy, but UCF didn’t make it impossible. I was able to adapt my work schedule to my class schedule and the professors were extremely supportive. I also found some of the greatest mentors at UCF, professors and advisors who genuinely wanted the best for me and helped me find my way professionally by encouraging my interests and ideas. They never closed their doors to my questions and doubts, instead they brainstormed with me and helped me find resources to succeed. One of my advisors was the one who helped me get an internship at NASA and that was how I knew where and what my professional goal was.

What advice do you have for students?

Uncertainty is scary, especially when you put so much time and effort into something, but it’s inevitable. Trust your happiness and you heart and never let it scare you away from doing what you really want. Don’t ever quit! Just step back, re-evaluate and reroute. It’s okay to deviate from your initial goals. Take advantage of all the resources available, ask questions, volunteer, get involved, network and never take opportunities for granted. Find a group of friends with similar interests and support each other. I wouldn’t be where I am today without all the above. I would have given up after my first Space Mechanics exam…