Jason Swenson

Jason SwensonUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Aerospace Systems Engineering

Since Early Life
For the majority of my life, I lived in Barrington, Illinois – a village northwest of Chicago. Undisturbed by most of the light pollution, growing up in the suburbs was a blessing in my eyes. At a young age, my father and I would spend nights outside scanning the sky for notable star constellations, shooting stars, other planets, and, of course, the Moon. Occasionally, my father would also take my brother and I to astronomy conventions where we could witness the night sky in high-definition. As a child, I also remember standing before the Saturn V at the Kennedy Space Center in complete amazement. Surely, these experiences fascinated me and sparked my curiosity at a young age. What lies beyond us? And more importantly, how can we get there?

I continued through high school and was deeply involved in mathematics and physics. Although I was not studying any space-related courses at the time, I never could let go of my childhood experiences. At the time of college applications, however, I also had an interest in designing skyscrapers and bridges. It was for this reason that I initially was accepted into the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). It did not take long for me to realize that I truly wanted to study topics beyond the scope of the Earth. Prior to my sophomore year at UIUC, I followed my childhood dreams and officially became an Aerospace Engineering student.

From that moment, my experience and knowledge in the field of Aerospace Engineering grew exponentially. I ventured to Europe to study in Delft, Netherlands at the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft). Here, under the wing of some of Europe’s finest aerospace professors, is where I learned a great deal of the science behind space and engineering technology. Following the yearlong venture, I completed my Bachelor’s degree at UIUC by designing both the onboard power and thermal subsystems for a 24-satellite swarm. Our team submitted the completed design to the 2012-2013 AIAA Undergraduate Team Space Design Competition and, as an affirmation to our capability and motivation to push the limits of science and creativity, our team was awarded first prize.

Following these years, I continued on to my graduate career at UIUC and surrounded myself with more brilliant students and professors. As a graduate in Aerospace Systems Engineering, I was involved with a deep-space prospecting mission from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a Martian UAV request from the Johnson Space Center.

I have discovered that my interests within the aerospace industry are nearly unlimited. Topics such as rocket propulsion, orbital mechanics, numerical and statistical analysis, and aerospace structures have been just a few of interest. I would like to learn more about planetary science and astrobiology as well as some of the current studies being conducted using data from NASA’s Mars rovers.

Outside the aerospace realm, I have a strong interest in both creating and listening to music. I have played percussion since the age of twelve and have recently been teaching myself guitar. Undoubtedly, my favorite band is Radiohead. I also enjoy travelling and exploring the world around me.

Future Work
After graduate school, I plan on either conducting research or system engineering work for a space/defense company or an organization such as NASA. I strongly feel that the NASA Ames Academy will leave me with the knowledge and leadership skills needed to become a valued leader of the next generation of aerospace engineers and to pave the way for new space exploration opportunities. I am so grateful for this opportunity with the NASA Ames Academy.