Jill Lewis of SpaceX

Jill Lewis in front of SpaceX rocketWhat is your role at SpaceX?

I’ve been at SpaceX about five years, currently in the role of Structures Certification Engineer. In this position I’m the technical interface for all things ‘structures’ between the SpaceX designers/analysts and our biggest customers: NASA Manned Spaceflight, NASA Cargo missions, and the U.S. Air Force. My team is responsible for internally verifying that we are designing, testing, and analyzing all Falcon (launch vehicle) and Dragon (spacecraft) hardware to meet requirements, while externally performing technical presentations to transfer in-depth structural knowledge to the customers. We are also responsible for addressing all customer questions about Falcon and Dragon. 

Where did your interest in this field come from?

My first two and a half years at SpaceX, I was the Production Engineer (PE) for the Interstage structure, spanning from lamination through structural assembly. I developed a love of composites and production at Oregon State University during my time working on chassis manufacturing for the school’s Formula SAE team, Global Formula Racing (GFR), and was absolutely thrilled to continue my composites manufacturing work into my career.

While the PE role was amazing, moving into Certification Engineering has allowed me to combine my bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering with my psychology minor (which has come in handy while working with customers!). I have had the opportunity to be involved with the whole vehicle and expand my technical knowledge to match. As the Structures Certification Engineer for the Falcon Interstage, Second Stage, and Stage Separation system, as well as Dragon 2 (the vehicle that will soon carry NASA Crew), I’ve had incredible opportunities to be intimately involved in cutting-edge aerospace, from design through launch…and landing!

How did the School of MIME prepare you?

Oregon State University and the School of MIME do an incredible job of combining both classroom-based learning and hands-on experience. Student clubs supported by the university—including Formula, Baja, Design/Build/Fly, etc.—also play an enormous role in student readiness. SpaceX is known for its focus on personal responsibility and out of the box thinking. Coming out of the School of MIME and into such a fast-paced industry, I felt well-prepared and up for the challenge, knowing OSU had provided both the fundamentals and industry-level teaching.

What is your best memory from your time at OSU?

During my senior year (2011) our Formula SAE team’s car took first place at Formula SAE Michigan, Formula Student Germany and Formula Student Austria. Seeing the countless hours in the shop over the course of the year culminate in such a winning season was an incredible feeling. Getting to share that experience with all my teammates made it all the better. Now, six years on, I get to continue to share my successes with much of that original team – at last count there are ten of us from Formula SAE still working together at SpaceX!

Are you an alum who wants to share your story in an upcoming alumni spotlight? Email info-mime@oregonstate.edu.