"I really hope to inspire other women to get into engineering if it interests them. Continuing to shift the culture toward building young women's confidence in math and science will help to drive away the gender gap in STEM careers."
At her first job after Bucknell, with Boeing, Christina Sfedu '12 worked on a satellite that was launched into space on a rocket. Now with the space transportation company SpaceX, she's helping launch that same rocket into space herself.
At Boeing, Sfedu was a lead telemetry and command systems engineer, designing the system that allows operators on the ground to talk to a satellite while it orbits around the Earth. Three years later, she joined SpaceX as a senior telemetry engineer. The role involves recording and transmitting data about the internal functioning of rockets, so the data can be monitored and analyzed later. A career highlight was working on the now-famous launch of a Tesla car that's currently orbiting the sun in space (launched in 2018 as the payload on a test flight). She's also helped test spacesuits for the company and recently became a firmware engineer, helping write the software for a much larger rocket that will eventually transport people to Mars.
Sfedu's path to the stars began at Bucknell, where as an electrical engineering major she first encountered some of the same firmware development concepts she practices today — albeit at ground level. In a course with Professor Stu Thompson, electrical & computer engineering, Sfedu developed a mock streetlight system to regulate traffic at an intersection, coding software connected to LED lights to keep traffic (simulated by button pushes) flowing smoothly.
"Despite being one of my toughest projects that I worked on at Bucknell, I really loved the firmware class," she says. "I never imagined that I would one day circle back to this course material and work as a firmware engineer at SpaceX."
She also gained exposure to real-world engineering through extracurricular activities, serving as president of the campus chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and joining the school's robotics team.
"I really appreciated that Bucknell, being a small school, was still able to offer these activities," she says. "I even used my sorority leadership position, VP of finance, as an example for how I was able to lead a large group of people in my interview at Boeing — my interviewer loved it!"
Now a professional engineer herself, Sfedu hopes to inspire more women to enter the field. "I love getting to work with the other smart and talented women at SpaceX and participate in the Women's Network at work," she says.
"Women bring a diverse set of ideas to an engineering problem space and can often offer a fresh perspective," Sfedu continues. "I think that continuing to shift the culture toward building young women's confidence in math and science will help to drive away the gender gap in STEM careers."