Meet our Junior Researcher and resident rocket scientist, Matt D’Arcy. He is currently working with the Space Systems Research Laboratory (SSRL) of Korea Aerospace University (KAU) to build a 3U CubeSat (a small satellite that is 30x10x10 cm) to launch into orbit and take pictures of the Earth.
Matt, who says he was interested in space from a young age thanks to his grandfather’s work on major U.S. space projects (including the Apollo missions and the Mars Viking Lander), came to Korea after earning his Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at Drexel University. His plan was to conduct mission operations of the satellite in orbit, but he soon discovered that due to the unique build-from-scratch approach of the lab and the enormity of the project, the launch would be significantly delayed.
Matt says he quickly found that his mechanical engineering background and research experience had not prepared him for the electronics and computer programming-heavy work that awaited him. Not one to back down from a challenge, he spent the first few months of his grant year powering through several textbooks and tutorials to attain working proficiency in several computer programming languages and expand his practical knowledge of electronics. Matt says that tackling the steep learning curve that awaited him was both the most challenging and the most rewarding part of the year.
I had to learn entirely new skill-sets, but I had the time to sit down and learn them well, down to the nitty-gritty, as I did not have other courses or work pressures in my day-to-day.
Since then, Matt has become more involved in many aspects of the design and building process, but has found perhaps his most notable contribution in an entirely different area: project management. Matt says he faced an internal and cultural conflict with the work culture in the lab – namely, 20+ hour days and/or 6-day-long stints. During the series of all-nighters incurred for the construction process of the test model in particular, he worried that staff exhaustion could potentially harm the final product due to the extremely detail-oriented nature of the work. After careful discussions, Matt helped create a shift in work structure and new guidelines for the next construction process, introduced new team management software, and also reorganized much of the clean room and lab and helped institute policies for disposing of needles and other waste.
In the time he carves out away from the lab, Matt enjoys spending time with friends, exploring the Hongdae-Sinchon area he calls home, and hiking and biking in the spring weather. We wish Matt all the best in finishing up his project and his grant year!