photo of Tim Crain

Job Title 

Vice President of Research and Development and Co-Founder

Employer

Intuitive Machines, LLC

Location

Houston, TX

Why did you decide to pursue an aerospace engineering degree?

I was inspired by the legacy of the Apollo program and the epic successes and challenges of the shuttle program in my youth. Aerospace engineering offered the most direct path to be a part of that ongoing story.

Please include a brief paragraph describing your current position.

I oversee the direction of new technology development within Intuitive Machines and work closely with our Director of Engineering to ensure that the best of our techniques and capabilities are applied to every product we develop and solution we provide. I also develop strategic plans for our business line technology and development efforts.

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

I love that I get to solve some of the most challenging problems in aerospace, energy, and automated systems and that we have incredible freedom to pursue innovated solutions within Intuitive Machines. Sometimes the greatest challenge facing me is to realize that even though there may be multiple possible (and fascinating!) solutions, we have to pick one to see through to production.

What are your career goals?

I am a compulsive problem solver and love working with high performing teams to develop technical solutions. I'm committed to seeing Intuitive Machines grow into a leader in commercial space systems and autonomous technology solutions for terrestrial industries such as oil and gas. So, my career goals are to continue to find ways to engage in these areas while making Intuitive Machines a thriving business and a fantastic work environment for our team.

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

AIAA and SGT 

If you participated in student projects or organizations, how did your experience in these groups help prepare you for your career?

I participated in some of the first Rube Goldberg projects (some of the only projects available in ASE at the time) and the experience of applying our engineering education to real-life problems was impactful. That experience whetted my appetite for bring solutions to life for commercial problems.

Were you involved in any fellowships or internships? 

I was a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow and I also interned at the Applied Research Labs as an undergrad. The NSF Fellowship opened doors as a prestigious award and the ARL internship exposed me to some incredible scientists, technicians, and engineers who provided a strong template of how to work together as a team and how to apply technology to solve challenging problems.

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

I definitely recommend interning or working with professors on applied technology projects. The work you do outside of your coursework is one of the top characteristics we look for on resumes and this is true in many other companies as well.

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

I wish I had taken more business courses; understanding the business side of engineering is essential when working with commercial products and solutions and helps when engaging the government on contracts as well. I would definitely recommend a “Business for Engineers and Technologists” course if there is one.

Why did you choose one track over the other (atmospheric/space)? Do you feel this has made any difference in your career?

Actually, I didn’t. I took the courses for both! Ultimately, it was the success of Mars Pathfinder that led me to more of a space focus, but even then I use atmospherics all the time for our drone, re-entry, and booster technology developments. 

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

Dr. Robert Bishop. In addition to being my graduate advisor, he was one of the first professors that I had who engaged me directly and challenged me to use my intellect to solve problems and not just recite back what I had learned in class. He remains a mentor and close friend today.

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

It’s a tie between graduate Statistical Estimation and Linear Systems Theory. When I realized the math underpinning both was the same I had an “a-ha!” moment that brought my graduate studies into focus.

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

Find problems to solve outside of your coursework whether it be internships, professor directed research, or technology developments on your own. These will help you grow as an engineer and set you apart from others in your job search.

Are you still working in the aerospace engineering field?

Yes, but I have also expanded my customer base and problem set to applying techniques developed for aerospace into other industries such as energy, biomedical, and financial.

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

Hah hah! Several. But the long nights studying in the basement of WRW and the computer lab are times I remember fondly as paying my dues along with other students on our way to being top engineers.

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

  • I play bass guitar.
  • I played football for the Longhorns in 1991 and 1992 (we beat OU both years!).
  • I’m jealous of the opportunities afforded ASE students at UT these days…they have more projects and clubs to work with technology than we did when I was a student!