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REGINA APODACA’S INTERNSHIP AT NASA INTERVIEW.

1) Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Regina Apodaca, I am 24. I did my undergrad studies in Physics at UNAM, and I am currently doing my master’s in aerospace engineering at MIT. I did not always want to be an Aerospace Engineer; this was actually a last-minute decision I made during my last year of High School.

2) What was your most memorable experience at school?

Meeting High School professors that believed I could study something in STEM and gave me a lot of encouragement to apply to my first internship experience at UNAM, followed by one in Israel. I do not think I have ever received that kind of support from any other institution. That changed my life.

3) Why did you choose a career in Aerospace Engineering?

The reason is both, a happy and a sad story. I originally wanted to study Astrophysics, but people told me I would not understand it. I decided that I would help Astrophysicists build experiments that provided the data to support their theories, and found out that that is what an Aerospace Engineer does: design instruments and missions that gather information that help not only Astrophysicists, but all scientists, to learn more about the universe.

4) You have had the fantastic opportunity of interning at NASA, can you tell
us more about it, please?

I had a lot of fun during my time at NASA; it was the first time I was actually interning in the engineering field. I really liked it because I was welcomed into a great and diverse group where there were students from all over the world. Something that inspired me was to be surrounded by people who are passionate about the same thing. We had to work very crazy hours, but we did not mind at all because we were doing what we loved.

5) Whilst at NASA you created a model for a helicopter as part of your thesis.

Can you tell us what inspired the idea and how it developed? (You ca mention that this helicopter will fly over Mars in 2020) I was originally involved in a project that was trying to determine the maximum velocity at which the Mars Helicopter Scout could reach at different altitudes, however, while designing the experiment, in order to get to the data we needed, we realized that we could use the same experiment set up to investigate another interesting question that – up to this point – we haven’t really had an answer to: would we lose visibility in the moment of take off or landing? This was very important because the helicopter is autonomous, and it has to be able to determine the distance from the ground at every point and that’s what the project came to be. I It was very exciting because I was researching a question that I came up with and that the experts in the field did not have an answer. It was lifechanging.

6) What is the most important lesson you have learnt since graduating from
Tomás Alva Edison?

It doesn’t matter how many degrees or what kind of credits you have; people always are going to doubt you or try to tell that you cannot do something. I think that as long as you believe that you can do it and work hard enough, you can prove to these people that it is possible and there is no real reason you would not accomplish something.

7) Do you have any advice for Aerospace Engineering Inventors?

The advice I would give, especially to engineers in Mexico, is to never give up and never stop pursuing the answers they are looking for. It is a difficult field to get into, but if you are passionate about the topics you want to research, as I am, the money or the lack of support are not going to stop you. We have to keep trying to find new ways to get answers for our projects.

8) What is your favourite planet in the solar system?

Earth, because it’s the planet I call “home”. That is why is very important to us and the generations to come to take care of it, and fix the huge climate issues we are facing. Although we can get to other planets, we won’t be able to inhabit them for a long time, so I hope we get to fix this one before that happens.

9) What are your hopes and dreams for the future?

A space agency that is worthy of Mexico. We have great talent in Mexico, especially in the STEM field. I’ve seen a lot of passion in a lot of Mexicans and I really hope that one day that will produce quality research. Another one, is to see a female Mexican astronaut.

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