Thursday, June 27, 2019
IDEA Scholar: Juan Maldonado
Juan Maldonado has had his eyes set on the stars since he was a young boy. Any time in the library was spent in the scifi section.
“That’s where my mind was-- the future,” Maldonado said. “I liked learning about these new technologies coming out, especially rockets. I was really interested in rockets.”
After watching SpaceX launches, and particularly the landing of the Falcon 9, Maldonado decided he wanted to work on rockets. As an aerospace engineer, he had a chance to do that through the Rocket Propulsion Lab and Triton Rocket Club. As an undergraduate, he also conducted research in Professor Nicholas Boechler’s lab.
After graduating from UC San Diego with a degree in aerospace engineering, Maldonado is pursuing a PhD in Aeronatics and Astronautics at Purdue University, while also preparing to apply to be an astronaut.
“I’ll be learning another language—probably Russian—and learning how to fly planes and things like that,” Maldonado said. “That’s something I’ve been interested in since I’ve been a little kid, was applying to be an astronaut.”
Maldonado’s decision to study at UC San Diego was largely influenced by the IDEA Engineering Center. Their overnight program “was awesome,” and the summer engineering program was really helpful, too.
“One of the big things for IDEA that I really appreciate was just getting to know other people and developing friendships with people in my major that I see all the time,” he said. “I still have those friends now which has been super awesome.”
The summer program in particular was so beneficial that he served as a peer facilitator for classes behind him.
His advice to students is to give research a try if you have the opportunity. You never know where it might take you.
“Before I did research I was pretty set on going into industry,” Maldonado said. “Whenever someone brought up grad school I was like ‘Oh nah, I don’t want to do more school,’ because I didn’t know what research was like. But once I did it I fell in love with it-- having to come up with creative solutions, the whole process of doing research. That’s what convinced me to go to grad school-- I didn’t know I wanted to do that until doing research just last summer.