Meet the talent ALEXA QUINONES
Place of residence: New Jersey, United States of America.
Position: Researcher Scientist at NASA L’SPACE Program and Researcher Engineer at Deep Space Initiative
Please describe a day in your life.
My day starts very early, at 4:00 am. I’m very immersed in self-improvement and always trying new ways to boost my productivity. I meditate in the morning and do some journalism to reflect on some of the challenges I had the day before and analyse new abilities on myself. How I spend my morning will determine the results during the rest of my day. During the next hours, I go to the university and start my job there. I also must schedule meetings and spend a lot of time doing research as part of the activities I’m working on with NASA and the Deep Space Initiative.
How many projects are you currently working on? Please describe them.
I consider myself very passionate about the space industry, and I’m currently participating in two projects:
NASA L’SPACE – NASA Proposal Writing and Evaluation Experience (NPWEE) Academy: I’m learning to effectively write a concept proposal that turns innovative ideas into reality. I’m also gaining experience in the process of writing, reviewing, and scoring proposals through the lens of a NASA reviewer. I’m also working with NASA scientists and undergraduate students around the USA.
DEEP SPACE INITIATIVE – ANDROMEDA PROGRAM:
This program’s goal is to help you gain more experience in the field by working on a specific research question and developing novel solutions. With a term lasting 12 months or longer, I’m working in a team on a particular research question with the help of a supervisor/expert in the field. This program is especially great for those who are still starting off their journey in the space field, in the middle of switching careers, or would like to broaden their horizons.
In your opinion, who is the most influential person/company in the world of technology these days?
I consider that SpaceX is still one of the most influential companies in the world of technology these days because it’s leading the aerospace industry and it’s innovating the development of different components for improving spacecraft systems. Likewise, SpaceX oversees the most ambitious space missions, and they will launch the Starship in the next few days as part of the ambitious mission to Mars.
If you could pick one app/product/project existing now that you wish you were involved in, what would it be?
I would really love to be involved in the Starship mission from SpaceX. As I mentioned before, this is an ambitious mission to Mars and is a great step for the space industry’s development. I’m also very interested in participating in the project of the James Webb Telescope. Since I researched the importance of the James Web Telescope, I know how important this telescope is for understanding the dynamics of the vastness of space and analysing the composition of exoplanets and celestial bodies. My next goal is to be involved in one project with NASA to develop more telescopes like the James Webb Telescope.
How do you see technology evolving in the next ten years?
I see technology becoming more sophisticated and helping to solve more challenges in our world. Technology will reach a level where humans and artificial intelligence will find an equilibrium between them. We are currently facing many challenges in different fields, like education, climate change, and health, among others. Scientists are working hard to apply the best solutions for facing these problems, but I see technology having more participation in those areas.
What would you like the industry to look like in ten years?
I would like to see the industry more involved in climate advocacy and I know how important the development of sustainable projects or climate policies is. I consider that industry can play a great role in this field. Maybe the industry can spread the message by developing some products, and some companies can help with the development of new technologies which can be applied in different places. I would say that the industry can be involved as a climate advocate in many ways, and the industry can also hear innovative ideas from the young generation.
What are the three characteristics you have that make you successful in tech?
The three main characteristics that I always recognize in myself are leadership, commitment and innovation. I developed these aspects in myself throughout the years.
What is the most challenging thing you had to deal with during your career?
One of the most difficult challenges was recognizing and discovering my path in life. I am curious and always learn many things related to different fields. It was very difficult for me to understand my path in life and what specific action I wanted to take to achieve it. This situation helped me to become strong and spend enough time with myself. I discovered many things I didn’t know when I connected with my inner self. Thanks to it, I could understand the path I want to follow and how many steps I need to take to achieve it.
What is your greatest achievement up until today?
My greatest achievement up until today is my participation in the NASA L’SPACE Program and my participation in the Senate of the USA in Washington, DC. I’m extremely happy that I’m currently working with NASA scientists and engineers. I got the opportunity to learn the process of developing a NASA mission. I already know how much effort the NASA team needs to put into getting a successful result in the different space missions. Working at NASA is a dream come true for me. My next step is to intern at Kennedy Space Centre or in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. I’m also very grateful to be in the Senate in Washington, DC. I met the legal representatives of the senators, and we discussed many projects for facing climate change. This experience is a great achievement for my professional career.
What do you wish yourself with respect to your career?
I wish I have more opportunities to work in the space industry and oversee the most important space missions in the top aerospace companies. I also wish to reach the greatest level of my skills to help other people who want to be involved in the tech industry like me. Reaching the greatest potential will allow me to mentor young people and inspire them to achieve whatever they want.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I see myself having my own aerospace company and developing more innovative space transportation systems. I am more immersed in the space industry and working with the most efficient professionals to develop different space missions. I also see myself doing a lot of workshops and conferences for young people who are also very involved in the science field.
What is your next goal?
My next goal is to do an internship at NASA or SpaceX. I feel very inspired by the talented people working there and already know their experiences there. It’s a great motivation for me, and I know what steps to take to apply to these internships. I’m currently working on my speaking skills and want to reach the highest level of it. I also want to be more involved in conferences and workshops. My short-term goal is to be a TED Talk speaker.
What tips do you have for people wanting to start in the tech world?
I highly recommend connecting with people working in the tech industry and always going out of their comfort zone. Networking is important because the people will help you to connect with the company, or they can become your mentors. They will also support you in developing the right skills that most top companies are currently looking for. I suggest learning as many things as possible because the knowledge you can get is important for developing innovative projects in the tech industry.
What would it be if you could say something to your younger self?
I would say to my younger self to not be afraid of the challenges I can face as a scientist and always try new activities and new things for my self-improvement. I also suggest to my younger self to have the power to connect with successful people and how I can start a conversation with them. This would help my professional career.
What do non-tech people around you (family, friends) think you do?
My family and friends think that I’m doing amazing activities nowadays. They feel inspired by me and love hearing my stories with NASA. They consider that I have a lot of potential and show it through all the activities I’m currently participating in. They are very surprised that I want to support the space industry by developing sustainable rocket propellants or creating my own space company.
What is the invention of the century in your eyes?
Elon Musk has made significant contributions to space exploration. The invention of the inventions is the multi-use rockets. SpaceX has developed rockets that may be recovered and reused in different launches. This involves more environment-friendly spacecraft components and SpaceX is releasing more advanced components to improve space missions.
What can’t you do without? (app/product…)
I always carry my laptop and iPad because I love being organized with all my activities. I love using Notion, which is a famous productivity app. This helps me schedule new meetings or do some journalism when visiting new places. I also do a lot of research and have all my papers on my laptop. That’s why I need to carry my laptop to add new papers or write new ideas when writing a proposal. I also tend to carry a bottle of water wherever I go. It’s part of my daily habits as a healthy person.
Which famous person would you like to have dinner with and why?
I would love to have dinner with Dr Jane Goodall. She is always doing a fantastic job as a conservationist, and I admire all the dedication she put into researching the behaviour and emotions of chimpanzees; she redefined the relationship between humans and animals. I also feel very inspired by her actions as a climate advocate.
Where would you like to travel next?
I would love to travel to Australia very soon. I have a lot of favourite places in Australia, like Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide. I love the Australian culture, the music and the beautiful nature there.
If you were asked to stay on a deserted island for six months, what three things would you take with you?
I would take my journal with me because I would love to write and share my experiences with others. I also want to take a telescope and an astrophysics book with me.
Do you have a person who influences or motivates you?
I have an amazing network in my life at this moment. My friend Yasmina Ellins is an excellent inspiration for me nowadays. She met up with Richard Branson and more successful entrepreneurs some weeks ago. She is also interviewing CEOs and founders of different companies. She is always taking many steps for her improvement.
Last thing regarding which you told yourself, “How come no one has ever thought of it”?
I told myself this when I did a project with the Internet of Things in my engineering degree. I discussed many ideas with my professor, and I wasn’t entirely sure what kind of things I could do as a project. My professor helped me with the research, and I knew that smart houses have many benefits. Therefore, I applied the Internet of Things in the development of a system for a Smart House. All my colleagues were very impressed by it.
Last thing regarding which you told yourself, “How come you haven’t thought of it”?
When I have new ideas, I always try to write them and reflect on them. When I was younger, I felt afraid to share my new ideas or projects I might be able to develop. Throughout the years, I have learnt to be confident in my ideas and develop them immediately. I’m currently developing a proposal for implementing robots in the parks to transform plastic into compost for the plants. This is something innovative and will face climate change.
What is the greatest miss? (you thought it would never work, but it turned out to be a great success)
The development of the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) of a NASA Mission. It could have had many errors and no real data. But, when I presented the final PDR to the NASA scientists, they mentioned that it was a good project and could be implemented for future NASA missions. This project was focused on planetary defence missions. It required a lot of research. I was pleased when I saw the result of it.
What did you dream of creating/inventing/doing as a child?
I have always dreamed of creating a system that takes advantage of natural resources to generate natural energy. I was always concerned by the difficult situation in some cities in Peru. For example, I always imagined using the water from the rain to transform a new energy source. It will give energy to different families, and this will address the problem of climate change.
How did covid-19 change the way people view technological development?
People started to take technological development more seriously because the latest advances in science and technology helped to solve many challenges with the covid-19. For example, covid tests were more efficient with the latest technological devices. Likewise, with some automated systems, counting the number of people who agreed to undergo the tests and the corresponding vaccines as possible.