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

Now Playing
Ricardo Lara HighlightInterview Highlight
Now Playing
InterviewThe Interview
Now Playing
Any Kind Of Progress Is Good ProgressWeb Exclusive
Now Playing
Becoming A Contamination Control EngineerWeb Exclusive
Now Playing
Getting Used To FailureWeb Exclusive
Now Playing
Day In The Life Of A Contamination Control EngineerWeb Exclusive
Now Playing
Most Challenging Problem Working On The James Webb TelescopeWeb Exclusive
Now Playing
Staying Up To Date As An EngineerWeb Exclusive
Now Playing
Translating Teamwork In Sports To Teamwork In The WorkplaceWeb Exclusive
Now Playing
The Importance Of InternshipsWeb Exclusive
Now Playing
My Career PathInterview Excerpt
Now Playing
First Day Of Work Compared To NowInterview Excerpt
Now Playing
Overcoming Language BarriersInterview Excerpt
Now Playing
Prioritize What's Important To YouInterview Excerpt


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.


High School
Physics, General
University of California-Irvine
Materials Science
University of California-Irvine


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.

Skills & Qualities Beyond School

You need great interpersonal and communication skills. Ability to learn on the fly and make decisions under pressure. Confidence to come up with creative solutions and present them. Leadership to manage a large group of people.

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:

Chemical Engineering


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

UCI Roadtrip