Ana M. Espinal Mena

Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico

 

I was born in 1985 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and lived there until I was 8 when my family moved to Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, a small beach town. My brother and I attended public schools in Puerto Rico where we studied hard and learned lots of new topics. It was quite an adjustment to the new schools—but we did well! I graduated from High School with High Honors, so the hard work paid off.

When I was in High School I didn’t know what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. My favorite hobby was designing clothes and drawing people that were passing by. Also, I enjoyed the challenge of solving our assigned math problem as quickly as I could and learned new ways to make calculations faster. I was always on the lookout for new and different mathematical strategies.

Before deciding where I was going to attend college, I visited several schools. Among them, I visited the Inter American University of Puerto Rico, Bayamon Campus and I decided to apply there because I liked the studying facilities and it was relatively close to home. Next, I had to decide which career path to select—this was the hardest question to answer! Since I liked math, my older brother suggested that maybe I would like to study engineering. I choose electrical engineering because I also like electronics. I must admit, I did not fully understand what engineering was all about when I decided to make it my major, but it turned out to be a great choice for me.

During my undergraduate years, I did learn what it meant to be an engineer—especially an electrical engineer. I never thought that engineering could be such a fascinating career and that it could cover so many topics. Electrical engineering is a field that can be divided into so many branches, such as design, electronics, fabrication, etc. It is amazing!

So, what continues to keep me so interested in this field? Things are always new. Electrical engineering technologies are constantly changing and improving over time. It is really amazing how the electronic circuits that we built just a few years ago can be made more efficiently today with devices that are even smaller than the ones we used before.

My work is really fun and always changing. Sometimes I work on electrical design, which is like drawing using the computer. Designing schematics and PCB layouts is like taking my favorite hobby to a different level. Other times I make more technical drawings that can be built and transformed into a complete circuit. Can you image how it feels to be part of a team whose mission it is to design and implement a scientific experiment? Can you image what it is like to collaborate on the entire process from the planning phase up to the fabrication process and being able to see the final product? It is pretty exciting to see an instrument that you and your colleagues worked on move from the design phase to a real life instrument that you can actually see!

I started participating in research projects in May 2007 and continued up until this March. During these years I was involved in research projects related to the ionosphere, sounding balloons and a NASA mission called CubeSats. I learned how to do electrical designs, PCB layout, DIP and SMD soldering and also how to work with ETU and flight parts—I did all this following the guidance of our project electronics manager, electrical engineers and space qualify technicians—we make quite a team. Working on research projects gave me a chance to learn more about the practical side of electrical engineering and to have lots of hands on experience.

Currently, I’m enrolled in a Master Program in electrical engineering at the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico, Hato Rey campus. The specialization that I selected is communications systems, since I like working in the field of aerospace and satellites communication. I want to continue studying and eventually receive my PhD in electrical engineering—with that degree I will be able to write my own research proposals, bring together a great team of colleagues and work on more exciting research projects in the future.

You will probably agree with me that my brother’s suggestion about studying engineering was a good one. It still is!

 

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