You could say that Lauren DuCharme’s (BS ’15) imagination has never been earthbound. As a student in the College of Engineering & Computer Science at Cal State Fullerton, her undergraduate work became the foundation for her later focus on developing a Mars sample transfer test bed, which resulted in her receiving the NASA Group Achievement Award.
Now, as a flight systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), she has helped launch and land a rover on Mars. She often reflects upon how knowing that JPL considered her undergraduate efforts “NASA-level” work validated her career choice and reinforced the important role her college played in helping her get there.
Since 1994, Cal State Fullerton has honored some of its best and brightest alumni with the Vision & Visionaries Award. The award recognizes these individuals’ distinguished achievements and allows recipients to reflect on the people and programs that educated, motivated, and served them as students.
DuCharme is this year’s recent graduate honoree.
Working at JPL has been the realization of her lifelong dream. Encouraged from the start by her proud family, supported by the campus community, and inspired by faculty advisors who speak highly of her intelligence, motivation, passion, leadership, and approachability – she achieved it.
At the College of Engineering & Computer Science, DuCharme led the robotics team on their senior design project, which focused on developing a rover to assist astronauts on another planet. She has either interned or worked at JPL since 2014 and has been involved in research and engineering development for technologies to return Mars rock and soil samples back to Earth for analysis. After graduating from Cal State Fullerton in 2015, she continued her education at USC, where she studied spacecraft dynamics and graduated with a master’s degree in astronautical engineering. In 2017, she was hired as a full-time flight systems engineer for the Mars 2020 mission.
The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover made its historic landing in February 2021. DuCharme is now working on autonomy and fault protection for Europa Clipper, Earth’s first mission to conduct detailed reconnaissance of one of Jupiter’s moons.
DuCharme was honored along with four other distinguished alumni at the 25th Vision & Visionaries celebration in February.