Albert Jiminez

Columbia University
New York, NY

Computer Engineering

Principal Investigator: Terry Fong
Project: Robotic Scouting for Lunar Surface Science

Education and Experience:

I was nicknamed "el cientifico"; my curiosity and constant experimentation convinced my family that I was destined to be a scientist. In particular, I was always fascinated by the space program and its incredible achievements that have placed man and machines in space at unimaginable distances. The vastness of the universe fueled my curiosity as I wondered of the things that are just waiting to be discovered. I can still remember the days when I aimed my telescope at the bright New York City night sky, hoping to catch a better glimpse of the heavenly bodies. Although I was never able to clearly see the Moon or Mars, my excitement for space continued as I dreamt about someday contributing to the space program.

As I got older, my curiosity developed into a passion for engineering and technology. After graduating from high school, I was fortunate to become part of the NASA MUST program, which gave me the opportunity to intern at a NASA center. Since then I have interned at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for three summers. The knowledge that I have gained and the network that I have established have made the experience the highlight of my undergraduate career. I've had the privilege to meet highly motivated and intelligent individuals ranging from high school students to experienced researchers. My childhood feelings of wonder and amazement returned when a JPL researcher pointed his telescope at the clear California night sky and I saw for the first time the rough craters on the moon.

My experience at JPL was filled with such moments. While my interactions with my mentor and other researchers fueled my interest in the space program, the range of research being conducted at JPL exposed me to various potential career paths. In particular, my task of assembling a global digital elevation model, during my first internship, convinced me to pursuit a degree in computer engineering. As a freshman at Columbia University I knew that I wanted to major in a field within engineering and my internships at JPL helped me narrow my focus. By the end of my third summer internship, I had become an expert in my research area. I had expanded the original task of creating a global digital elevation model and created an online interface/database to facilitate the use and formatting of the data. Currently the product has been used by scientists and researchers beyond JPL.

My research at JPL has been an integral part of my undergraduate career and has served as an effective complement to my school work. During the school year, I have been involved in various influential projects ranging from building a radio transmitter/receiver to designing a network on chip; but perhaps the most significant project was actually not related to computer engineering; at Columbia, all engineering freshmen take a course in which groups of students work with a client in the community to research and propose a solution to an engineering challenge. My team's challenge involved designing a bio-diesel powered greenhouse to go on the roof of an elementary school building. I was very enthusiastic to finally apply my knowledge to a "real-world" challenge. As the team leader, I led my team beyond the project's original goals, and I even wrote a website to obtain funding. Apart from the technical challenges, what really motivated me about this project was its didactic potential in teaching the community about the importance of renewable energy. The project was also designed to educate the school's children and to get them excited about science. I've always had a passion for contributing to my community and apart from this project I dedicate much of my time outside of school tutoring younger students.

My passion for community service can be traced back to my mother's example; 20 years ago, she moved to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic, as a single mother, in hopes of providing better opportunities for her children. Since then her actions have been defined by selflessness and sacrifice. She has taught me to have a sense of responsibility and to embrace any opportunity that may cross my path. Today I am taking advantage of NASA Academy in hopes of learning more about NASA and getting one step closer to achieving my goal of contributing to the space program.