From RWU to the Cutting Edge of Space Exploration

Headshot of Michael Patient

Michael Patient, RWU Class of 2007

Major:  Computer Science
Minor:  Music
Alumni

You may have read about SpaceX in the news, the innovative private space transportation company founded by Elon Musk. For Michael Patient ‘07, SpaceX is not just the intriguing company changing the course of space exploration, but the place where he has spent the last six years of his career as a lead software developer. 

Patient talked with us about how his exposure to a specialized system-design platform while working on his senior design project at RWU made his involvement with SpaceX possible. 

What at RWU prepared you for your career? 

Of course I learned to program through the courses at RWU but the real reason I have my position at SpaceX is that I managed to get into a highly specialized area of engineering that filled a specific need for them. 

Can you tell me more?

They recruited me based on my National Instruments LabVIEW programming experience, which I gained through my previous job at Real-Time Analyzers. LabVIEW was introduced to me briefly at RWU during our senior design project, which tied for 1st/ 2nd at the Water and Environmental Research (WERC) Consortium in 2007. 

Since the computer science program was smaller we joined with the engineering team for our senior design projects. This led to one of the engineering professors suggesting we use LabVIEW in order to save some time getting started. With my introduction to that I managed to get a job and learn to apply computer science concepts to build on what is an engineer dominant programming environment that often lacks those concepts.

I gained most of my experience through my previous job but would not have been introduced to LabVIEW if it had not been for our senior design project. A bit of luck and some good timing never hurts.