Mars 2020 Mission Operations Systems Engineer, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Rebekah Siegfriedt
Rebekah Siegfriedt working in the MER Test Bed performing a test on the Rock Abrasion Tool (RAT) science instrument.

Job Title

Mars 2020 Mission Operations Systems Engineer


NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory


Los Angeles, CA

Why did you decide to pursue an aerospace engineering degree?

I love the aerospace engineering degree because not only are the problems to solve SO COOL, but I feel like I get to do a lot of all the different types of engineering. In addition to space knowledge, I also use mechanical, electrical, and chemical engineering every day!

Describe your current position.

As a Mission Operations Systems Engineer on Mars 2020, I am responsible for designing and testing the health and safety of Perseverance before she leaves for Mars, and managing her well-being by implementing daily activities and quickly solving problems during her mission.

Which student projects and/or organizations were you involved with in ASE/EM?

AIAA, WIALD, LUNAR - WIALD - Obtained hands-on, real-world engineering skills. Learned how to work with a team, lead that team, present technical information to an audience, and learned how to problem solve real engineering problems. This organization helped me obtain internships which led to full-time offers. I believe everyone should get involved with a hands-on student organization!

Were you involved in any fellowships or internships? If so, please explain and discuss the benefits.

Johnson Space Center - Worked in the Propulsion and Power Division at Johnson Space Center under Project M. This project focused on innovation and creativity to land a vehicle containing a humanoid robot (R2) on the moon in 1,000 days. I analyzed, designed, and tested the helium pressure system the vehicle. I used fluid mechanics theory I learned in the classroom and applied it to this internship! Jet Propulsion Laboratory - Worked on MRO supporting the Navigation Team analyzing and designing an orbit trim maneuver using orbital mechanics theory and Navigation Software in addition to preforming statistical analysis of MRO relay overflight for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL). I got a head start on learning the theory behind orbital maintenance and was more prepared for my Orbital Mechanics class the following semester! I got a behind-the-scenes look out how engineers operate spacecraft millions of miles away from us! SpaceX - Worked as propulsion test engineer on the Grasshopper project to study recoverability and reusability of the Falcon 9 rocket. Grasshopper is a vertical takeoff vertical landing vehicle and will ultimately decrease the cost of space exploration. Obtained a ton of hands on engineering work and learned how a launch vehicle works!

Do you recommend any particular focus for students other than academics to improve themselves as potential candidates for jobs? If so, please explain.

Please get involved with a hands-on project! Hands-on projects develop so many hands-on engineering skills that you cant get int he class room! Recruiters look for involvement in these types of organizations because hands-on engineering skills in college sets you up to be a great employee!

Why did you choose one track over the other (atmospheric/space)? Do you feel this has made any difference in your career?

I choose the space track because I have always loved space and love the problems to be solved! There is SO MUCH unknown about space and that fascinates me! You should choose the track with the problems you most enjoy solving. It has made a difference in my career because I am directly working with space problems everyday.

What are your career goals?

5 year goal- Have a big role on the Mars2020 spacecraft 30 year goal- Help find life on other planets!

What has been your most influential ASE or EM course and why?

Mission Design with Dr. Fowler because we got to apply all that we have learned over the years to a real Aerospace Engineering Mission! 

Who was your most influential ASE or EM professor and why?

Dr. Hans Mark because of all the huge goals he has accomplished in his life and is still accomplishing! He is a huge role model for me!

What is one piece of advice you have for undergraduate students?

Freshman: This is your year to focus on your GPA. If you start with a high one, it will be easier to get internships in the next couple of years. Sophomore: Get involved with a hands-on project! Junior: Get a leadership role in an organization. Senior: Enjoy yourself! This is the last year before you hit the real world.

Do you have a favorite memory as a UT aerospace student?

Traveling out to Spaceport America to launch our WIALD payload on a rocket that went into space! I cried :)

List three things that most people don't know about you.
  • I am a HORRIBLE speller.

  • In high school I wanted to be a massage therapist.

  • I never pulled an all-nighter in college and proud of it!