After reading our InternXpert blog today, you’ll undoubtedly be inspired to go outside of your comfort zone as Lauren deVera has during her time in school. As an undergraduate student, it’s easy to be wrapped up in classes and grades, but the people we choose to connect with and the opportunities we take advantage of are what continue to motivate us as we complete that schoolwork. Ms. deVera is the epitome of this approach. Read more below.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. How you chose your major, where you go to school, future goals, etc.:
My name is Lauren deVera and I am an Aerospace Engineering major from Skyline College transferring to Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in the fall. I first fell in love with Aeronautics when a Blue Angels pilot came to visit my elementary school to talk about his line of work. Then, in 2012, I remember standing in awe as Endeavor took its last flight atop a Boeing 747 over San Francisco. It may have been the end of the Space Shuttle Program, but to me, it was the spark that ignited my passion for Aerospace. Fast forward to 2018, I watched, speechless, as SpaceX launched the Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time, confirming my dreams of progress in space travel. It is these types of moments that have moved me and garnered a nascent desire to one day become a woman at the forefront of Astronautics.
Growing up, there were not very many women who looked like me in this industry, so I did not even know where to begin, let alone think becoming an engineer was possible. It was not until after high school where I learned to be self-propelled and to create my own path through trial and many errors. My first semester, I attended San Jose State University which was an overwhelming experience for me. I was trying to juggle school work with extracurricular activities, all while feeling like I did not belong in this male-dominated trade- Imposter Syndrome. After that semester, I moved back home and attended community college to give my future a serious thought. It was a grueling start to my academic career, but I had much to gain from those experiences. I realized just how self-driven and resilient I can be.
Community college is where I grew into my own, and it is where I was able to explore and fall deeply in love with Aerospace Engineering. I found mentorship through my professors and spent countless hours discussing the inconceivable brilliance behind space travel and the advancement in aerospace. I participated in the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars(NCAS) and NASA Lucy Student Pipeline Accelerator and Competency Enabler (L’SPACE) Virtual Academy where I learned that I, a woman of color, do belong in STEM as an engineer. I also volunteered at middle schools to teach kids about STEM. I also am happy to announce that I am a finalist for the Department of Defense SMART Scholarship Award and will be working with the Air Force in the coming summers!
My passion is gestalt and is what drives me to advance in my academic and professional career. I’m studying Aerospace to advance the technology and its service to better our lives here on Earth, and to take humans beyond this world.
Do you recommend students to take advantage of opportunities like International Scholar Laureate?
If you are able to study abroad or attend any credible international program, 100% take advantage of the opportunity. It was a huge leap outside of my comfort zone. I traveled to Beijing, Yichang, and Shanghai in China with a group of like minded and enthusiastic individuals who come from different backgrounds all around the world. I got to walk the Great Wall of China and step inside a Pratt & Whitney jet engine. It was such a privilege to indulge in a beautiful foreign culture all while receiving a unique educational experience. Overall, it was a life changing trip. It broadened my perspective and appreciation not just for engineering, but for what the world has to offer.
What were your big takeaways during your time at NASA Ames Research Center and after completing L’Space?
My teammates from NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) and L’SPACE were the best part of the programs. To this day, I still consider them great friends and some of the smartest people I know.
NCAS was my first engineering related program ever. It was also my first encounter with a group of people who were just as passionate about the advancement in space technologies. Our team clicked immediately and worked efficiently. The feeling of comradery was my biggest takeaway. That and how unbelievably cool it was to be at NASA Ames Research Center for the week. That whole experience has helped me realize that I was where I needed to be. No matter how crazy or big my dreams may be, they are attainable.
How did you find out about the opportunities you have taken part in/ how do you recommend students find something similar pertaining to their major.
I found out about NCAS through my Calc III professor. He sent out an email, and as soon as I saw “NASA,” I applied right away. From there, it was through networking and research where I found more opportunities.
My advice is to not be afraid to put yourself out there and to just apply no matter how unqualified you feel. The worst thing to happen is a rejection letter or simple “no.” However, from that decline comes experience and lessons on how to make yourself a stronger candidate. Also, creating online connections is the best way to find your alcove of individuals. There is bound to be a student or professional who aligns with your background or major. If not, create one.
Where do you find your motivation and inspiration to continue working hard in school to accomplish your overall goals?
I find motivation in everything from watching an airplane fly overhead to live streaming a SpaceX launch. Quite recently, binge watching Agents of SHIELD and marveling over the tech has been motivating me through Zoom University.
What has truly inspired me is Twitter and Instagram. Over a year ago, I decided to turn my social media platforms around to spread my adoration for space. Through doing so, I found a niche of women and men in STEM who openly share their struggles, successes, and everything in between. There, I found supportive and uplifting individuals who make me feel less alone. I even met my mentor through instagram, and she has helped me overcome personal obstacles through sharing her own experiences. Most importantly, I found my voice. Everyday, women are paving the way so that the next generation can have someone to look up to and to explore their interests without any preconceptions. Through sharing my story, I intend to hopefully do the same.
Follow more of Lauren’s adventures and find inspiration on her Instagram, @_laurdev.