Meet Alumna Alison Cheung ’06, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Space Systems and Technology Division

Full Name: Alison Cheung

Class Year: 2006

Title: Engineer, Space Systems and Technology Division

Organization: MIT Lincoln Laboratory


1. In one sentence, what does your job entail?

My job entails designing and validating software to control and collect data from space surveillance sensors (optical telescopes and radar) that observe, track, and characterize space objects.



2. What were you involved in when you were on campus?

At Holy Cross, I was involved in the Holy Cross Chamber Orchestra, the Goodtime Marching Band, Calculus Workshop Tutoring, Society of Physics Students, SPUD, and Appalachia.



3. What was your major and how did it affect your career decisions?

I was a double major in mathematics and physics.  This provided me with a strong foundation to go in a variety of science directions.  I never had a specific path in mind so this gave me lots of options.



4. What planned and unplanned events connected you to your industry and your first employer after Holy Cross? How did you learn/decide it was a good fit for you?

During my sophomore year, I received an email about an opportunity for physics students to apply for an internship at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory funded through the Massachusetts Space Grant Consortium.  I didn’t expect it, but jumped on the opportunity, put together a resume and cover letter, and had phone interviews with potential mentors.  I spent the summers after my sophomore, junior, and senior years at JPL and knew this field and environment was what I wanted.  After completing graduate school, I called my mentor and said I wanted to return to JPL as a full-time employee.  My internship, that came about because of Holy Cross, got me my internship at JPL.  My performance during that internship allowed me to return subsequent summers and ultimately lead to my first full-time job where I worked on mission operations for the Cassini spacecraft that was orbiting Saturn.



5. What are one or two skills that you developed at Holy Cross that you use in your work?

Holy Cross helped me develop confidence in my abilities by being in a small setting where professors could suggest opportunities that I would not have pursued on my own.  One of these opportunities was independent study during the academic year where I was able to develop research skills.  Particularly useful was the ability to navigate dead-ends and uncertainty in where an approach might lead.