Launching their careers

By Kim Burgess
The Herald Journal
May 2, 2010
Space Dynamics Lab Director Niel Holt

Braden Wolfe/Herald Journal
Space Dynamics Lab Director Niel Holt speaks on his appreciation for the graduating USU students who work for the lab during a luncheon in their honor Friday in North Logan.

NORTH LOGAN — Utah State University’s Space Dynamics Lab is well known for its research on sounding rockets and NASA satellites – but the organization has also helped launch something closer to home: the careers of hundreds of students.

Roughly 1,500 Aggies have gotten their start at SDL, working for the organization while they complete undergraduate or graduate degrees.

On Friday, 36 of SDL’s 113 current student employees were recognized during a luncheon held at SDL’s facilities on the USU Innovation Campus. The honorees graduated in Dec. 2009 or are set to finish school this month or in August.

As they shared their plans, it was clear that big things are in store for the group.

Many already had jobs lined up a major organizations like L‐3 Communications, Clearwater Analytics and Hill Airforce Base.

Jordan Irving, a mechanical and aerospace engineering major, will spend the summer interning at a business in Tempe, Ariz., before starting a master’s program at Arizona State University.

He commented that the year he spent working at SDL helped him apply what he’d learned in the classroom to real‐world problems. Plus, working for a respected organization like the Space Dynamics Lab looks great on a resume, he said.

“I am sure it helped me with getting that job for the summer and going to graduate school,” Irving added.

For Ben Rippon the next step won’t involve as big a move.

The computer science student was hired on at SDL and will start work in a week, focusing on software development. Eventually he plans to return to Utah State for a master’s degree.

“I’ve really enjoyed being here (at SDL),” Rippon said. “It was a great experience and that’s why I looked for a job here.”

Many SDL workers have traveled a similar path, starting with the lab during their college years.

Human Resources Director Melanie Pond said that the organization “has a long history of hiring from the student workforce.”

Among those who made the leap is Doug Lemon, executive vice president and director of laboratories at the USU Research Foundation, a nonprofit corporation that manages SDL.

Lemon first came to the lab 35 years ago and said Friday’s event with the new graduates brought him “full circle.”

“You don’t know where your career is going to take you,” Lemon added. “I really benefited from my experience here and it’s fun to see these students going through and starting their careers. You never know, some might come back here.”


© 2010 The Herald Journal