The insider's guide to the Jerome Fisher Program at the University of Pennsylvania

Rocket Launching and Reaching for the Stars: My Path to M&T

I had a unique high school experience. After 9th grade, I didn’t attend high school but went to college full-time through dual enrollment. Here, I was able to take a wide variety of courses not only in business and STEM, but also in history, English, and other disciplines. There was so much to learn! By the time I graduated high school, I had earned associate degrees in Mathematics, History, and general studies with a Computer Science certificate. This broad academic background opened up unique opportunities in technology.

The summer after my junior year, I applied for an internship at United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture between Lockheed Martin, Boeing and the world’s largest private rocket company. While there, I was exposed to rocket science from within the industry. I worked on a number of interesting projects, including one ushering in the new avionics system all ULA rockets use to fly.

George showing off his skills at NASA

During my senior year, a group from my dual-enrollment college and I had an idea for a way to shrink down Ring Imaging Cherenkov Radiation detectors to the size of a GoPro camera. We submitted our design to NASA through the Colorado Space Grant Consortium. After four months of design reviews, we were contracted to launch our detector to space. In the summer of 2016, a NASA rocket set off with a few of our design experiments.

At the same time, I was rehired by ULA for the summer. After work, I would get together with my fellow interns to build our own sport rockets. By the end of the semester, we had built Future Heavy, which broke a world record as the largest and most powerful sport rocket launched anywhere in the world.

After doing projects over two summers in avionics, algorithms, ordnance, supply chain error prevention, new rocket design, safety engineering, and reliability engineering, I’ll return to ULA this summer in a graduate level position.

 

So, I, of course, had a broad engineering background when applying for college. But why M&T?

 

I knew I loved engineering, but being on the business side was even more fulfilling. I want to do more than just design new technology, I want to design the future.

In addition, I want to retire into philanthropy. I love charity work, and I currently manage a national charity called Starts with Soap that provides basic necessities to underfunded schools around the US. I would like to dedicate my life to this purpose. M&T gives me the analytical and business skills to be able to gain funding for and run a charitable venture by the time I retire.

I applied to M&T because I believe that “moonshots” sometimes work out. No one in my immediate family has attended an Ivy League school, let alone an elite program like M&T. Being in a program like M&T seemed like a mirage growing up, but I decided to apply because I had nothing to lose. I still can’t believe it worked out for me.

 And I never could have guessed what a great group I’d be joining. I love the M&T community. Each M&T is unique in terms of background, yet like-minded. My best friends are in M&T, and I love being able to have conversations with individuals across the spectrum. Many M&Ts have such relaxed personalities, yet I know everybody in the program is brilliant.

At times, I feel inadequate in the presence of my peers, but I love it! The M&T community gives me the motivation to better myself while providing all of the resources – both social and professional – to do just that. It is truly invigorating to be an M&T.

George Pandya (M&T 2020) is a mechanical engineering and applied mechanics (MEAM) major concentrating in operations, information, and decision (OIDD). He would like to work in the business side of the defense and aerospace industry, pushing technological developments forward.

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