Exploration systems design alumnus lands his dream job

By

Karin Valentine

Editor's note: This profile is part of a series on outstanding School of Earth and Space Exploration alumni.

William “Billy” Merino graduated in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in Earth and Space Exploration with a concentration in exploration systems design and is currently in his dream job as a systems engineer with Lockheed Martin Space. “What I love best about my current position is that I am exposed to, and participate in, all phases of the systems engineering process for geo satellites,” said Merino.

When asked why he chose Arizona State University and the School of Earth and Space Exploration for his studies, Merino said he knew he wanted to work in the space industry eventually, and ASU stood out because of what the school brought to the table. “From the school’s treasure trove of world-renowned professors, to the always-expanding opportunities with NASA missions, choosing ASU above all other schools was a no-brainer,” he said.

Merino’s recommendation to first-year students is to get involved outside the classroom, whether it's actively participating in a club, research or an internship. For example, Merino was involved in the student-run Sun Devil Satellite Lab and the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space. “Both of these organizations helped me expand on my studies and grow my love for science, engineering and space exploration,” he said.

He also became a student researcher at the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera Science Operations Center, working for principal investigator Mark Robinson and research analyst Tyler Thompson. “Working at LROC allowed me to see the moon in a different light, an experience that I will always remember and be grateful for,” he said.

When asked what advice he would give to students in the School of Earth and Space Exploration beginning their freshman year, Merino provides the following helpful list:

  1. Make as many friends as you can at Camp SESE. These friends will not only be great study buddies, but will also turn into lifelong friends.
  2. Get involved in research and internships early. Apply to companies you're interested in, and bug all your professors for research opportunities.
  3. Get to know your professors. Go visit them during office hours, and do it often. 
  4. Keep your grades up. Science and engineering jobs are competitive, so try your best to maintain a 3.0 or higher. If you're struggling with this, see number 3.
  5. Have fun, but know your priorities. There will always be parties and events, but there's only one chance to do well on a test. 

When asked about his favorite professor, Merino says he loved all of his professors and learned something from each of them, but there were two who stood out and helped him grow into the systems engineer he is today: School faculty members Paul Scowen and Chris Groppi. “These two not only taught me how to think like a systems engineer, but were also awesome personalities who would never talk down to you,” Merino said. “I am privileged and grateful to have had them as both a professors and a mentors.”