Q&A with Jaya Iyer, Apex Structures Engineer

Published on
April 26, 2023
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Jaya is a Structures Engineer at Apex. Previously, Jaya built robotic pizza trucks at Stellar Pizza, brought satellites to life at Boeing’s Millennium Space Systems, and kept humans safe in space at SpaceX.

Q: What is a structures engineer?

Someone who works on everything that is not powered, and makes sure things only move in ways they are meant to and capable of. On spacecraft, I’m focused on finding a place for every component needed for a particular mission, and ensuring that nothing will break over the whole lifespan of the spacecraft (on the ground, during launch, or during its operation). A big part of that is designing, analyzing, and testing the structure, but I also work with all of the other engineers to make sure we accommodate their needs, from thermal requirements to harnessing and beyond.

Q: Top three pizza restaurants in LA?

I love Milo & Olive and of course Stellar Pizza. But also, I love making pizza at home - you can make it as easy or involved as you want, and there’s almost an infinite amount of topping combinations. Some of my favorite nights have been pizza parties with my friends. We either make dough if we’re feeling ambitious or buy some from trader joes, and each of us create whatever we want over that. There have been some truly bizarre creations, but you can’t beat a pizza party for pure enjoyment.

Q: Rockets to satellites to pizza to satellites! Tell us why you’re coming back to building spacecraft. What excites you the most about Apex?

The two are pretty much the same answer - I came back to satellites because I wanted to work at Apex. My time at Stellar was great. I loved my coworkers and got to go back to my engineering roots of rapid design and test, with the perk of delicious pizza at the end.

Joining Apex gives me the opportunity to tackle another fascinating engineering challenge, to build a robust spacecraft that can accommodate a wide range of payloads, and to do that quickly. I’m excited to get in at the beginning of this journey and be part of the awesome team here.

Q: What are you proudest of from your career?

I’ve worked on and had a direct impact on some pretty awesome projects, first with Crew Dragon and then a robotic pizza truck.

I’m also proud that I’ve found ways to share my passion for engineering along the way, both with younger engineers at work and with budding engineers. It was really special to be able to go out with a robotic pizza truck and see kids get excited about engineering by explaining how we turned a dough ball into their dinner all with robots.  

Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring aerospace engineers?

You have to just jump in and start doing it. You learn so much more by doing than by watching, and mistakes can teach you even more than your successes. Also, engineering is all about collaboration - your project only works if all parts of it do. Don’t be afraid to ask your teammates (and not just those who share a specialty with you) to brainstorm or for feedback, as they may see something that you don’t.

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