The Final Frontier

RIT alumni helping to boldly go where no one has gone before




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A mechanical engineering graduate works with Boeing’s Space Exploration Division on the launch system that will one day take people into space. Another certifies the equipment on the Falcon 9 rocket designed and manufactured by SpaceX.

A photography graduate at NASA is teaching astronauts before they head to the International Space Station how to use cameras. Another graduate at NASA is developing equipment that could one day allow people to live on Mars.

These and many other alumni are making an impact in space exploration today by contributing expertise in engineering, imaging science, physics and photography, among others. RIT has ranked nationally as a school companies prefer when recruiting and hiring in the aerospace industry.

Don Figer, director of the Center for Detectors at RIT and a leader in developing and deploying new photon detection technologies in the field of astrophysics, said companies like his students because they have experience solving real problems and working in teams. His students come from engineering, science, business and imaging arts and sciences and completely run the Center for Detectors.

“They are going to be operating at a much, much higher level and capability,” Figer said.

Edward Hensel, associate dean for research and graduate studies in Kate Gleason College of Engineering, also credits real-world experience through the co-op program for exposing students to the entire aerospace industry ecosystem.

“They work for the big aircraft companies, defense companies, but they also work for the suppliers that may be only one or two layers removed from that,” he said. “I think that is unique.”

Here are some of their stories.