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Lessons From Space Serena Landers ’20 and Marine Savoure ’21 explore the lessons learned by NASA engineer Bobak Ferdowsi ’97 throughout his life and career during his visit to ASIJ

“Why do we exist? Why is earth so full of life? A lot of the work that we do at NASA and the work in particular that I'm working on now is to help us understand what's going on in our own planet.” This is what drives Bobak Ferdowsi ’97 in his work at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab as a systems engineer. Ferdowsi, who spoke at ASIJ’s Space Conference in May 2019, was just 24 when he first started working on NASA’s Curiosity Rover mission to Mars. Nine years later, the rover successfully landed on the Red Planet. For Ferdowsi, the beauty of his work lies in its potential to “help humanity create solutions that address the problems and the challenges of our times.” Ferdowsi finds that space exploration puts things into perspective: “it helps us realize that there is so much more between shared between us than there are differences.”

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THE AMERICAN SCHOOL IN JAPAN

Though Ferdowsi now sees his purpose clearly, he didn’t grow up aiming to be an engineer. At most, his interest in space consisted of a fascination for science fiction. “I grew up on science fiction,” he says. “It planted a couple of seeds.” It was only in high school that Ferdowsi became seriously interested in science, inspired by his chemistry teacher, Mr Chambers (FF ’89–11. By conveying his excitement and interest in science, Chambers showed Ferdowsi that “this is something that is worth being excited about.” Ultimately, Ferdowsi realized that “science was a place that I really want to pursue”, though the road ahead would still have twists and turns. Initially majoring in physics, Ferdowsi soon realized that this wasn’t quite right for him.

Profile for The American School in Japan

The Ambassador. Fall/Winter, 2019