In celebration of Women's History Month, the Department of Aerospace Engineering is highlighting some of our talented and diverse alumni and faculty through a series of stories and Q&As, sharing their journeys and their advice for aspiring aerospace engineers.
Alumna Lisa Policastri is the Chief Operating Officer, and one of the owners, of Space Exploration Engineering, LLC (SEE). Lisa has over 25 years of experience performing spacecraft mission planning, design, analysis, operations, and requirements definition.
Lisa specializes in orbit determination and has worked on many operational space missions including several lunar and cislunar programs. In her role as COO at SEE, Lisa is responsible for business operations and project management activities.
Lisa earned her M.S. in Management, with a focus in Project Management, from University of Maryland University College in 2011, and her B.S. in Aerospace Engineering with a focus in Astronautics from the University of Maryland College Park in 2000.
Last year she was awarded the Spring 2022 Technology Business Leadership Award from the University of Maryland A. James Clark School of Engineering.
Where/How did you get started on your Aerospace Engineering journey?
I started on my journey in aerospace engineering as a co-op at the Naval Research Lab in D.C., after my sophomore year of college when I was 19 years old. I applied to several co-op positions through the co-op office, and I was so excited to have gotten a position there.
My first job as a co-op was supporting the mission planning team for a space mission program—and there on that program I had the best mentors that anyone could ask for!
(Policastri pictured at right with Dr. John Anderson and the late Dr. Robert Korkegi during her UMD years).
Who/What inspires you?
My team at Space Exploration Engineering inspires me. Their daily enthusiasm and excellence are like nothing I’ve ever experienced before!
What has helped you succeed in your Aero journey?
Growing from challenges and experiences, and always trying to do something better next time.
Sometimes the days are long, and the problems are rough, but always reflecting back and figuring out what I could do better next time has been a huge foundation in succeeding for me.
Remember to work hard, but also give yourself a break sometimes. Both are necessary for success in this industry.
What advice would you offer current students?
Learn to work as a team and learn to delegate. Understand your own strengths and weaknesses and always recognize your team member’s strengths. Not everyone has the same skills.
Also, ask for help when you get stuck. Your colleagues are out there to lend a hand! Reach out and get yourself un-stuck! These problems we are working on in this industry are really difficult, often are using new (or yet-to-be fully developed) technologies. You are not expected to have all of the answers yourself.
What have been some of your greatest personal/professional successes?
Presenting work at conferences and writing papers is always very rewarding. I encourage my team to do the same, show off the awesome work that you’ve done, to inform your industry colleagues of what types of problems you are working on. Trust me, down the road it is amazing to see how many times your papers are referenced!
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March 8, 2023