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03/28/2012

Fielding several offers, Grace Lee accepts job at NASA

Hard work and studies pay off for Earl Woods Scholar

Senior year in college can sometimes be stressful, as soon-to-be graduates put their skills to the test to land their first post-graduate jobs. But fourth-year Earl Woods Scholar Grace Lee no longer has anything to worry about.

Grace, a student from the Berkeley School of Engineering, will be graduating this May, and she has had many job interviews with notable companies like Dreamworks Pictures and Blizzard Entertainment. After many months of deliberation, Grace is proud to announce that she has recently accepted a job at NASA!

After four years of being an electrical engineer and computer science student at Berkeley, Grace has seen her hard work pay off. Grace will soon join the ranks of computer scientists under the Intelligent Robotics Group at NASA's Ames Research Center located in San Jose, Calif.

"I will be working on image processing and computer vision," Grace said. "Reconstructing 3D models from the images taken from the moon and Mars, and other image manipulation and computer vision projects."

Currently living in Berkeley, she is also very excited about moving to a place of her own in San Jose.

Landing a job at NASA was no easy task.

"I got an email from one of the professors in the lab I am currently working at -- Visual Computing Lab -- I do graphics research here," Grace recalled. "I interviewed on a whim because what NASA does and what I initially wanted to do [visual effects] were two very different things. But the job description said they had image-related projects, so I applied anyway.

"During the interview, I met most of the team and sort of fell in love with the awesome and smart engineers there. And then I went back for another interview and got grilled on technical questions for more than five hours. They checked my references at Pixar and Berkeley. Then I got an email saying that I got the job."

Initially, Grace wanted a production job at a studio doing visual effects. Working at NASA wasn't something she had considered before. Grace has had interviews with many studios, including Dreamworks, Digital Domain and Blizzard.

"I received offers from some of them, but somehow my heart kept tugging toward NASA and the more research-oriented projects there. And the engineers at NASA seemed happier than some studios I visited. So after deliberating for two weeks, I made up my mind and followed my gut."

At NASA, Grace hopes to gain more knowledge in computer vision and to develop "hard-core" computer skills that she may not have gotten from a production setting. She also plans to have lots of fun building and working on projects with her team.

"I think I'll be exposed to many domains of engineering because the project is interdisciplinary," she said. "It'll be fun to be challenged everyday by a variety of projects that require skill sets that I don't have yet -- so it'll mean I'll learn on the fly all the time, which is very exciting!"

In terms of the Earl Woods Scholarship Program, Grace said that her acceptance at NASA had a lot to do with the people who helped her succeed in school.

"The Earl Woods Scholarship helped me graduate, which was always a huge obstacle for me in terms of funding. Then when I got the job, TWF staff helped me with negotiation and discerning whether this job is right for me. I am very privileged to have had an army of people supporting me throughout college. Somebody said it takes a village to raise a child. I think the same goes for getting a job. It literally required three organizations [Pixar, TWF, Berkeley] to land me the job offers that I received and negotiated."

Grace finished her thoughts by saying, "I am thankful for this opportunity and all the help I received from TWF. One of my happiest days was getting a tweet from Tiger congratulating me on the offer from NASA."

Grace would also like to give a shoutout to all the aspiring engineering girls out there.

"There is so much I want to say to them. Especially dealing with insecurities about math and sciences, which I faced many times during my time at Berkeley Engineering School."

Congratulations, Grace! We look forward to seeing all that you will accomplish in the years to come.