“I Want To Leave The World A Better Place Than I Found It”

| November 11, 2019

Kevin Moran, astronautical engineering transfer student and U.S. Navy veteran has his eyes set on fusing engineering with humanitarian work

U.S. NAVY PETTY OFFICER, SECOND CLASS Kevin Moran aboard the USS Boxer. Photo Courtesy of Kevin Moran

Kevin Moran, a USC Viterbi sophomore studying astronautical engineering, understands the meaning of “mission ready.”

Last summer, he interned for NASA, working on the Preliminary Research AerodyNamic Design to Land on Mars (PRANDTL-M) project where he contributed towards designing a glider that can sustain flight in the Martian atmosphere. He developed a MATLAB script that simplified the airfoil design process and reduced the overall work time by 20%.

As a U.S. Navy Petty Officer, 2nd Class, he spent most of his time on board the USS Boxer in the engineering department, performing maintenance on damage control systems so that the amphibious assault ship would be ready to respond in the event of an emergency.

Moran came to USC in 2018 as a transfer student from Rio Hondo College in Whittier, CA. There, he served as a STEM tutor, designing personalized physics, chemistry and mathematics lessons to prepare other veterans and junior college students from from all walks of life to fulfill their dreams of getting into a four-year college or better career opportunities.  He still keeps the job as a way to give back to the community which he considers an “essential part” of his life. “They pay me to show up, but it’s really not about the money.” Moran said.  “I love seeing other people achieve their dreams.” One of the students he tutored in physics was recently accepted into Harvard University.

At USC Viterbi, he is helping the USC Rocket Propulsion Laboratory to be “mission ready” to break another one of their records when they launch their next student-built rocket into the atmosphere. Meanwhile, Moran is immersing himself in all that USC Viterbi has to offer in his pursuit to become “mission ready” for another lifelong passion: humanitarian work.

Tell us about an exciting memory you have from your time serving in the U.S. Navy.

I think one of the coolest moments I ever had during my time in the Navy was watching flight operations for the first time. There was never a dull moment when Harriers, Ospreys and Sea Dragons were taking off or landing. It is what lead me to become an aerospace-astronautical engineer.

Kevin Moran splits his time between full-time astronautical engineering, helping USC RPL reach for the stars and tutoring community college students in STEM. Photo Amy Blumenthal

What influenced your study of engineering?

I’ve always enjoyed learning about math and science and learning how machines work. For me, being an engineer seemed like the perfect fit. Although my time in service is over, I believe everything I learned in the Navy prepared me for the daunting task of being an engineer and taking on 21st century challenges.

What do you enjoy most about your time at USC Viterbi?

Definitely the student design teams. I’m currently involved with Rocket Propulsion Lab, and it feels great to put all my prior maintenance experience, along with my understanding of physical phenomena to use. Eventually, I hope to get involved with more student organizations, STEM outreach programs, or even a humanitarian project.

What’s next for you?

As I’m getting settled at USC, I am starting to consider the possibility of going to graduate school for a master’s in either aerospace or astronautical engineering. Regardless, I don’t want to just graduate and get a nine-to-five-job. I want to make an impact in the world. Whether it is designing the next generation of communication satellites to support troops overseas, or introducing the next generation of children to engineering, I want to leave the world a better place than I found it.

What does Veterans Day mean to you?

Veterans Day is a day to thank those service men and women who made extraordinary sacrifices. Many of the other veterans I know are quiet and humble about their service. I think it’s important to have a day that we can just be thankful that someone was and always will be watching our backs.

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