photo of Martin Sebastianelli

Current Job

ISS Robotics Systems Engineer 

Current Employer

 NASA/Jacobs Technology/MTS Inc.

Current Location

Houston, TX

Why did you decide to pursue an aerospace engineering degree?

In high-school, I thought working on space faring vehicles happened in special government programs that were unimaginably exclusive. When I saw my high school had a rocketry/robotics club I was hooked (see what I did there). And the following year as I researched universities and saw that multiple schools offered Aerospace Engineering, I knew then and there what I was studying. 

Please include a brief paragraph describing your current position. 

People often imagine the experiments that crew aboard the ISS perform on a daily basis. But plenty of autonomous experiments are installed on the outside of the ISS. Usually they are installed by the 3 main robots located on the outside the ISS. Since repairing the robots outside of station isn't exactly as easy as changing a flat tire... It's part of my job to balance payload developers getting to do what they want, while making sure they do not harm or incapacitate the robots in any way. 

What do you like most about your job? What do you find most challenging? 

Reason 1, it's SPACE! Just kidding, but really, there's something invigorating realizing that what you are working with is trying to function and operate in one of the most demanding environments humanity has ever reached. 

What are your career goals? 

It's tough to say, I am having so much fun right now. I really enjoy seeing NASA and the world shifting their space programs towards Mars. I think it would be fascinating to work in an environment where the stakes are even higher like working with robotics systems on Mars. Or better yet, be a part of the team that designs said robots. 

Which of the following student projects / organizations were you involved with in ASE/EM? 

AIAA and UT Solar Vehicle team. 

How did your experience in these group/s help prepare you for your career? 

To be honest I wasn't on Solar Vehicle team for too long, but I still learned a ton. I had a good amount of circuitry and small power systems experience from robotics in high school, but I really learned a ton more about serious power systems. It helped me inexplicably in my first internship working on a Solar Powered UAV.

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

I had an internship at Titan Aerospace (later bought by Google). We were working on a High Altitude Long Endurance Solar UAV. It was an incredible learning experience where we were really pushing the limits of everything on the plane from the battery tech to the materials and the manufacturing methods. I got lucky that I got an internship but I really recommend trying your hardest to land one (or more!) before you graduate. Besides learning a ton, it really helps give you a leg up in those future job interviews. 

Do you recommend any particular focus for students other than academics to improve themselves as potential candidates for jobs?

Yes, there was a huge emphasis on internships or research projects when I graduated and was looking for a job. There was also a large emphasis on capstone projects. I highly recommend trying to absorb as much information and all the experiences you can as you work through your internship/research-project/capstone-projects.

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

Todd Humphreys. Easily. Aside from the class being extremely interesting and challenging... I was having a particularly hard semester in the first place, and so for my final project my partner and I decided to pick something relatively straight forward. It seemed easy, but once you got into the details we were clearly over our heads. To help you understand what I mean, I liken it to us suggesting we can climb Mt. Everest for our final project and our professor says something like, "Uh I guess that will work". It's easy right? Just climb a mountain! Well stepping back out of the analogy, after we finally got our code straightened out and hit run, MATLAB estimated our genetic algorithm would take 267 days to finish running... we had about 25 days left till the project was due. We made it, barely... but it was no easy feat.

What has been your most influential ASE or EM course and why?

I really loved Orbital Mechanics. It was like magic. We were literally learning how to do magic in class. 

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

Do your homework in excruciating detail. I can't tell you how many times I have looked something up, later that semester or in a future semester, on my old homeworks by quickly finding a relevant problem. Even after graduation I still reference my old homeworks on occasion. Upload them on OneDrive/Google Drive/Dropbox and keep them handy. 

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

I distinctly remember being up at 2 am in the computer lab turning on a bunch of slave computers to help us crunch our code for our final project in Satellite Based Navigation. Having our spaghetti code run crazy fast, on our tossed together cluster computer, days before the project is due, and having it complete 6 hours later with reasonable answers; was a high that is difficult to describe. 

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

  • I speak German! 
  • I love camping/hiking. 
  • A hobby of mine is homebrewing.