Third time at NASA a charm for RIT graduate

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Dmitriy Bekker landed a job at a NASA laboratory after graduation because of his co-op experience. He returned to RIT last spring to recruit other students. Here he is pictured in front of the Space Shuttle Discovery mated to a Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. The visit was one of the most memorable events from his co-op at Dryden Flight Research Center.

Dmitriy Bekker ’07 (computer engineering) was offered a full-time job at a NASA laboratory eight months before he graduated from RIT. But he didn’t take it.

Bekker had done his fourth co-op at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., helping scientists with data processing. The laboratory, which is run by the California Institute of Technology for NASA, is the lead U.S. center for robotic exploration of the solar system. Bekker liked applying his skills from RIT while working with scientists who were studying the atmosphere.

“But I have a lot of friends on the East Coast and I wasn’t sure I wanted to move out to California even though it was very cool work,” he says about the job offer that came on the last day of his co-op.

So he took a position with a company in Boston after graduating. Within months, he realized he had made a mistake. He called his contacts at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and has been working as an electronics engineer there ever since.

This spring, he returned to RIT to collect résumés and talk to students during the campuswide career fair. One-third of the company representatives at the fair were alumni and it was the first time the Jet Propulsion Laboratory participated in the event.

“Traditionally we go to large aerospace schools like MIT and Georgia Tech,” he says. “I have been telling them, ‘Hey, I haven’t seen many RIT graduates. Maybe you should send me back to RIT to recruit.’ RIT graduates are strong in the computer and electrical engineering fields, both of which are in demand at JPL.”

Bekker worked two of his four co-ops with NASA when he was a student. The first was with the Dryden Flight Research Center in the Mojave Desert in the summer of 2005. He found that one through the Offices of Cooperative Education and Career Services website. While there, he toured the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and liked it so much that he applied for a co-op through the New York Space Grant Consortium.

He says having a co-op set him apart from other students because he had hands-on skills. “It really helps to get noticed in the company,” he says. “The fact that the co-op is required at RIT is a big selling point.”