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Dylan Dickstein
MS ’17, Doctoral Student, Aerospace Engineering

As a five-year-old boy enthralled with model rocket kits that his parents brought home, aerospace engineering doctoral student Dylan Dickstein had no idea back then that the summer of 2018 would find him working as a propulsion engineer at SpaceX.

A recipient of the 2018 Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation, Dickstein is researching erosion from high heat flux in microengineered materials for space exploration in pursuit of his Ph.D. Correspondingly, at SpaceX, he is conducting structural and fluid analyses on propulsion systems for the company’s SuperDraco engines on its Crew Dragon spacecraft.

Dickstein’s penchant for rocketry started early when he quickly outgrew the rocket kits and started designing his own high-powered prototypes. By the time he entered high school, he was captivated with building and launching amateur rockets powerful enough to jet several miles into the atmosphere.

His proudest moment was during his sophomore year at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo when he designed, built, and launched the largest rocket ever flown at the campus to attempt the final step of the three-part certification for his high-power rocket license.

Eight months of development and fabrication were topped off with a last-minute coat of spray paint and a bumpy drive through a fallow field outside of Fresno. The rocket roared to over a mile in altitude and reached a maximum speed on par with commercial aircraft.

“Creating a custom rocket of this magnitude that satisfied all the requirements set by the National Association of Rocketry and the Tripoli Rocketry Association was amazing and cemented my decision to pursue a master’s and doctoral degree in aerospace engineering at UCLA,” he said.

The launch marked a turning point in Dickstein’s aerospace career as he dialed back amateur rocketry to focus on graduate-level research at Samueli and explore opportunities in the industry.

In addition to SpaceX, Dylan has racked up experience at United Launch Alliance, Virgin Galactic, and The Aerospace Corporation.

“While the rockets I work on now may be orders of magnitude larger than those that got me interested in aerospace, the physics and mathematical principles are identical. I find the work exciting, challenging, and incredibly rewarding.”


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