photo of Andy Tien

Current Job

Space Systems Engineer - Conduct space systems architecture design and performance evaluation for the intelligence community; explore spacecraft and sensor technology development through modeling and simulation at TASC.

Current Location 

Chantilly, VA

Why did you decide to pursue an aerospace engineering degree?

Ever since I cracked open books on our solar system and the early development of the space program in my childhood, I’ve had an interest in space exploration and space technology. I wanted to pursue a career that is challenging and that will expand our knowledge envelope, whether it is designing systems to conduct precise remote sensing missions in the harsh space environment or perform a high velocity landing maneuver on another celestial body.

What ASE/EM student projects/organizations were you involved with and how did these groups help prepare you for your career?

Sigma Gamma Tau; Spacecraft Mission Design - They helped out by providing similar interpersonal working relationships regarding task delegation, teamwork dynamics, and following a project management or study work plan timeline. Just like a real life work project, a successful student project must have equally contributing team members, continuous information exchanges, an occasional vector check to stay on track, and realistic activity milestones in order to complete the work on time. Student projects, like the spacecraft design course, served as a "practice environment" for me to get acquainted to working in teams and developing any lessons learned that I can carry forward to the real world.

Were you involved in any fellowships or internships? If so, please explain and discuss the benefits.

Mechanical Engineering Intern at McDonald Observatory; Space Materials Lab Technical Staff Intern at Aerospace Corporation; Missile Defense Agency’s Missile Defense Integration and Operations Center Senior Systems Engineering Intern at Northrop Grumman.  Benefits include: 1) real world work experience - I was able apply what I've learned in the academic environment and also pick up "On the Job training", which involves many technical and non-technical skill sets that are not taught in the classroom environment. 2) new friends, network, and potential full time job - assuming they have funding and you performed well as an intern, you can secure a full time job offer post-graduation. 3) Confidence in future interviews – For behavioral interviews (which are very common), I was able to draw my answers from actual work cases.

Do you recommend any particular focus for students other than academics to improve themselves as potential candidates for jobs? If so, please explain.

Besides academic excellence, please strive for plenty of work experience, and if possible, relevant work experience. Getting involved in interesting and productive extracurriculars are useful since they provide for interesting and worthwhile topics that can be discussed during interviews. Possessing relevant work experience and extracurriculars will make the candidate seem more multidimensional versus someone who just performed well in school and had nothing else on their plate. Besides their resume, if they aren't able to shine in an interview, which usually involves having interesting work experiences, research papers, extracurriculars, hobbies, or interests from which to base their answers on, then it is hard to stand out from the rest of the applicants with similar concentrations and GPAs.

Are there courses at UT you wish you had taken, and if so which ones?

Yes - I wish I had taken more space-specific courses like GPS navigation. Fortunately, I was able to at least enroll in some courses for astronomy, business foundations, and the university orchestra – all of which are topics of my interest.

Why did you choose one track over the other (atmospheric/space)?

I chose space because I was just more interested in spacecraft, astronomy, and space exploration instead of aeronautics. I am also fairly interested in atmospheric/aeronautical engineering, but that's probably more along the lines of a hobby. Because I took more space-specific courses, the space track did have a direct benefit in my ability to pick things up faster in on the job training since I work in a space related industry. 

What are your career goals?

I’d like to continue rounding out my experience in spacecraft operations and acquisition of space systems. For spacecraft operations, I intend to stay involved with the launch and initialization of different types of spacecraft (I have one under my belt), and build up experience in mission assurance. I'd also like to continue down my current path of architecture design, cost, and performance evaluation in order to better inform future acquisitions and potential technology insertion trades.  My contributions will most likely be for national security space, but I am also interested in contributing to the civil/space exploration environment as well.

Who was your most influential ASE or EM professor and why?

My most influential ASE professor was Dr. Fowler for leading the spacecraft design course. His course allowed the students to work on a "dream" project with an open ended scope which fostered analytical creativity (dream is in quotes because it's hard to come across a job that allows a small select team to hash out the end-to-end spacecraft program lifecycle by themselves).

What is one piece of advice you have for undergraduate students?

Work hard in school but don't forget to have fun, both in social settings as well as extracurriculars, hobbies, and student organizations. If possible, try to obtain as many internships and other real world work experiences as possible- they are invaluable as employers are increasingly looking for someone who can quickly get up to speed with real world systems and work place dynamics.

Do you have a favorite memory as a UT aerospace student?

I remember spending a late night during my senior year with several of my classmates at the Learning Research Center, where we played multiplayer Halo to relieve stress before a major project was due the next day.

List three things that most people don't know about you.

  • I've played the violin for 10 years.
  • I've never been a runner or someone who's been into cardio exercise, but my life goal is to complete an Iron Man.
  • I love Chipotle.