CSULA grad student launches rocket, career in JPL program
Phaeton project equips Merida with technical, hands-on experience
Elvis Merida poses in front of the sounding rocket before its launch at the U.S. ArmyÂs White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. (Source: JPL)
10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1Â Blast off! For CSULA graduate student Elvis Merida, it was a pretty intense experience and a proud moment to countdown and to witness the recent flight of a sounding rocket up to 120 kilometers above the EarthÂs surface.
The JPL payload flying on the rocket was developed hands-on, from concept to launch, by Merida and his fellow team members from the Phaeton Early Career Hire Development Program at NASAÂs Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The goal of the project, officially called Terrain Relative Navigation and Employee Development (TRaiNED), was to improve precision landing for future mission to Mars and other destinations.
The JPL Phaeton program, established in 2008, trains rising engineers and scientists to provide them with the necessary experience of having worked on a technical project and then advances them to other career opportunities at JPL. Assigned to work on a small-payload project through the entire development process, each member is matched with an experienced JPL mentor who will guide and enhance oneÂs technical and leadership skills.
ÂThe best thing about the Phaeton program is taking a project from the idea to launch and taking ownership of the decisions,Â said Merida, who was the TRaiNED mission assurance manager. In this capacity, Merida was responsible for overseeing the Safety & Mission Assurance teamÂs resources, schedule and costs; managing the environmental requirements, reliability issues, hardware and software quality assurance and systems safety; and maintaining the risk posture classification.
Merida, who is currently working on his second masterÂs degree in electrical engineering at Cal State L.A., is also involved with the San Fernando Valley section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He holds a bachelorÂs degree in electrical engineering and masterÂs degrees in engineering management from CSU Northridge.
Merida shared, ÂI chose to enroll in Cal State L.A.Âs electrical engineering program due to its reputable power and energy program as well as its connections with JPL. I know I made the right choice!Â
After adding rocket launching to his credentials, Merida said heÂll now focus on completing his masterÂs degree, in order to pursue a career in power systems and technology infrastructure. He said, ÂI hope to work in this field with JPL, which is currently a partner with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.Â
Here are links for reference:
- Phaeton Early Career Hire Development Program:
- Terrain-Relative Navigation and Employee Development (TRaiNED):
- Jet Propulsion Laboratory press release:
- Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Cal State L.A.:
- College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology at Cal State L.A.: