Forging a Path in Aerospace Engineering
My name is Jade Thompson and my story is short and sweet. My overarching dream has always been to work for NASA. When I wake up in the mornings I tell myself: Jade, this is all going to pay off, soon you’ll be doing what you love to do.
I’ve always loved everything that has to do with space, I have since I was a child. I don’t really know how to explain it precisely. Space is mysterious. It’s cool. I want to know more about it from different angles. I want to know, I need to know, what’s beyond Earth, what’s beyond our solar system. The photographs, documentaries, and videos I’ve seen of past NASA missions positively inspire me. It’s all so fascinating when I take the time to think about life as we know it beyond lower Earth orbit.
I’m not saying that my journey to study aerospace engineering has been an easy one. I became interested in STEM through middle school aptitude tests that suggested I study engineering. I wasn’t quite sure what my specific job function would be so I did research on space. I was hooked.
When I decided to pursue engineering in earnest as a transfer student at Virginia Tech, the classes were much, much more difficult than I expected. The math was incredibly complex, and I felt like I never knew enough. I didn’t have anybody, there are no engineers in my family to offer a support system. Trying to get through courses like Statics and Dynamics was tough. There were times I didn’t think I was going to make it. When I realized how much grit it takes to be an engineer, I realized that although I don’t have many people who can help me directly, I do have a network. Being able to forge meaningful educational relationships with my peers has been instrumental in my knowledge building. This perspective was also presented during my time at NASA.
Participating in NCAS was my first NASA experience and it was also very math-oriented. My excitement being a part of this program was so great, that I put in many hours studying for the online session. This was on top of all my other activities involving three large university projects. What I can say about NCAS is that it covered a broad range of topics increasing my perspective on rover missions to Mars. I learned so much online and on-site, all the effort was worth it.
Currently, I’m focusing on school and applying for a summer NASA internship. If I had to give a piece of advice, it would be to stick with the things you really want to do or love to do. Stick with them no matter how hard they get. Be open to communicating and collaborating with other people, and you’ll be well on your way to being a NCAS scholar as well!