Morino’s diverse interests pan out with NASA

by Nicole Sazegar, Staff Writer

Some years ago, aerospace engineer senior Ana Morino and her family took a trip to Colombia. While waiting for their flight, they watched planes take off from the runway through binoculars. She was only 4 years old, but her fascination with a hunk of metal being able to lift off and fly through the sky stemmed her interest in aerospace engineering.

In the summer of 2015, Morino interned for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. During her internship, she worked on Mars 2020, the new rover that will be sent to Mars in 2020.

Morino was in integration and testing for the Mars 2020 Rover Compute Element, which is the brain of the rover that controls and guides the rover.

She also helped with Safe to Mate of board part inspection, which involved ensuring that every board in the RCE was in the correct power before they were turned on. She also wrote a test procedure for Prepare Thermal Vacuum and Random Vibrations Test Procedures for the Mars 2020 RCE.

Additionally, she designed, built and tested small outreach rovers for kids K-12 to spark their interest in space.

Morino landed the internship through the help of her Aztec mentor Jordan Evans, who is the division director at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the multiple clubs she’s involved in on campus.

“The main thing they saw when they were going through my resume was my clubs,” Morino said. “They really liked the engineering-type clubs, such as Aztec Baja, but when they saw Rotaract SDSU and Aztec Dance Marathon, they really liked that I had diversity. I had engineering, but I also had community experience. I was kind of dipping my toes into (everything at) San Diego State.”

Morino is president of Aztec Baja, a College of Engineering representative for Associated Students, vice president of records for Rotaract of SDSU, the family relations director of Aztec Dance Marathon, part of the Society of Women Engineers and the Tau Beta Pi-Engineering Honors Society.

Not only did she learn the importance of communication within a team during her internship, but she also learned the importance of being passionate about a major and career.

“I learned the importance of enjoying your time,” she said. “If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, the day drags on forever.”

The encouraging and positive atmosphere at Jet Propulsion Laboratory convinced her she belonged there.

“All the positive encouragement from all the people I worked with made me want to come back and made me think, ‘This is why I’m here,’” Morino said.

At the end of her internship, Morino was assigned to do an exit presentation that explained everything she learned during her time there.

She realized she left an impression even after less than three months working there when, after her presentation, a senior manager turned to her mentor and said to watch for Morino in 10-20 years because she was going to be signing their checks by then.

In between projects, Morino’s employees helped her rub shoulders with important directors and become more familiar with each department. Her coworkers became her mentors, helping her establish a presence at NASA.

“It was an internship, but it was also a mentorship for life,” Morino said.

Morino’s work ethic is not the only thing that allowed her to secure so many great opportunities. Her friends say that it’s also due to her friendly personality.

“She is the most genuine person ever,” foods and nutrition sophomore Raquel Aguilar said. “I feel like that sets her aside because a lot of people have a good resume and all this stuff going on for them, as Ana does, but everything she does, she does it for the good of other people. It’s never selfish, and I feel like that sets her apart.”

When Morino was younger, she would build rocket ships out of boxes. Now, with all of the opportunities SDSU has offered her, she was able to turn this pretend game into her reality.