SCIENCE: School of Engineering alumnus, SpaceX engineer discusses life after Rutgers
Engineering students gathered to learn more about their options after graduating college.
Edward Almaria, a Rutgers alumnus and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) engineer, spoke with students about his career in a Skype conversation. The event was hosted by Theta Tau, a co-ed engineering fraternity, on April 19.
Almaria graduated from Rutgers in 2011 with a degree in mechanical engineering. He has been working at SpaceX since then, he said.
During his time at SpaceX, Almaria worked as a reliability engineer, propulsion manufacturing engineer and flight safety engineer, he said.
Almaria’s path to his current job started when SpaceX came to a Rutgers career fair. He was very interested in SpaceX and ended up with a full-time offer after graduation, he said.
SpaceX is a company that designs and tests rockets and spacecraft. It was founded by Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and co-founder of PayPal, according to Forbes.
SpaceX’s mission is to make interplanetary life possible, Almaria said.
Before founding SpaceX, Musk wanted to send a greenhouse to Mars but no space program was willing pay for such an expensive project. Musk’s response was to start his own space company, he said.
SpaceX’s culture is more like that of a technology company than an aerospace company, said Almaria. It is a very fast-paced workplace where one individual has as much responsibility as three people would elsewhere.
Regarding Rutgers students at SpaceX, Almaria said there are currently about seven to ten Rutgers alumni working there.
When hiring employees, SpaceX places great emphasis on strong academics and a solid base knowledge of engineering and physics. SpaceX also highly values hands-on experience, which Almaria gained from his senior design project in mechanical engineering, he said.
When asked about the most exciting recent development at SpaceX, Almaria said launching the Falcon 9 rocket and successfully landing it back on Earth was particularly important. This achievement was especially satisfying because people in the past said this was impossible.
Landing the rocket was significant because it becomes possible to reuse the rocket. Reusable spacecrafts would greatly reduce the cost of spaceflights and expand the market for space travel and satellites, he said.
An audience member asked about the situation of the overall space industry, including other companies such as Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic. Almaria’s opinion is that private space flight will continue growing.
Almaria described some of his own work at SpaceX. While he worked in manufacturing, part of his job was to figure out how to develop certain manufacturing processes that are usually outsourced in-house.
He also detailed the aftermath of a failed rocket flight. SpaceX engineers meticulously went through the bill of materials and tried to find anything that could be wrong before launching another rocket, he said.
Audience members also asked about the usefulness of a Professional Engineer license or a Master’s degree at SpaceX. Almaria said both might be helpful but not required. He did not feel a need to pursue either one.
Avi Shah, a School of Engineering sophomore, organized the event. The purpose of this event was to have an information session about a company that many students are interested in.
“Typically Rutgers has information sessions from companies," he said. "Companies will come here to market themselves or specific organizations will ask them to come.”
Shah reached out to Jean Antoine, who is assistant dean of Enrichment Programs. Antoine had a connection at SpaceX and was able to secure this talk, he said.
“Bringing someone like Almaria to our academic community will increase not only Space X’s popularity but will also show him that we’re very interested in them,” Shah said.
George Xie is a Rutgers Business School sophomore majoring in finance. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum. You can see more on Twitter @georgefxie.