Ricardo Lara

Ricardo Lara

Specialty Engineer

Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems

Redondo Beach, CA USA

Keep yourself curious. You only have as much power as you have knowledge.


By Roadtrip Nation

Ricardo Lara


My road in life has taken me all over.
Was born in the U.S., but grew up in Ecuador—moved back to the U.S. when he was in high school.
Attended the University of California, Irvine, where he received his bachelor’s degree in physics and materials science engineering.
Was originally a pre-med major with the dream of becoming a doctor—in preparation, he gathered references and volunteered at a hospital in high school.
Says his dreams of becoming a doctor were derailed after he took a physics class and discovered that he loved the problems and challenges it offered him.
Early on, he switched his major several times before finally settling on physics.
During his junior year, he began interning with Northrop Grumman in aerospace and contamination engineering, which inspired him to double major in materials science.
He captained the soccer team throughout college—credits this experience with helping him get the job at Northrop Grumman because it demonstrated leadership and his ability to deal with failures.
After his internship was over, he accepted a full-time position at Northrop Grumman—has been working in contamination control engineering on the James Webb Space Telescope ever since.


Specialty Engineer

I design systems that prevent the existence and growth of contamination on sensitive surfaces.

Career Roadmap

My work combines:
My work combines:
Problem Solving

Day to Day

I check my email and respond to urgent emails. Go to the high bay and check in with the Test Conductors and understand what work is going on. Perform tests and inspections of flight hardware. Attend meetings and participate in design and decision reviews. Do paperwork at my desk and check emails again. In contamination, we are focused on designing protocols to ensure we don't cause any contaminations (or can fix them) so that no valuable data or function is lost.

Advice for Getting Started

Here's the first step for college students

Prepare an elevator pitch about what you can bring to the table. Socialize in engineering circles and get an internship as soon as possible to figure out if this is what you love to do.

Recommended Education

My career is not related to what I studied. I'd recommend this path instead:


The Noise I Shed

From Peers:

"You have a lack of confidence in meetings, need to take more ownership of tasks and need more knowledge of chemistry."

Challenges I Overcame

Learning Issues
Physical Issues

Interviewed By

UCI Roadtrip

UCI Roadtrip

University of California, Irvine students and alumni