Shoot for the Stars: Kaustubh Ray '18 on how ASD prepared him for NASA

Alumni K Ray
Class of: 2018
College: Purdue University 
Occupation: Spacecraft Systems Engineer
Current City: Pasadena

Kaustubh Ray works as a Spacecraft Systems Engineer at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. His project? The Mars Sample Return mission—one of the most ambitious and complex planetary exploration flagship missions aiming to return Martian samples to Earth. He focuses on entry, descent, and landing—a mission-critical phase involving the safe delivery of payloads to planets, moons, and other celestial bodies. It's a lofty career.

Kaustubh attributes at least some of his success to the well-rounded program of studies and extracurriculars at ASD. He attended the school in Grades 5 and 6 and then again for Grades 9-12, graduating in 2018.

"When I initially joined ASD, I was an introverted, overweight, and reserved child. However, a significant transformation began in my 10th grade. I pushed myself beyond my comfort zone, becoming more involved in various activities (shared in my TEDxYouth @ ASDubai Talk) and placed a stronger focus on my academic pursuits."

After graduation, Kaustubh attended Purdue University, specializing in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering. Here, he excelled both academically and socially.

"I carried the valuable lessons I had learned at ASD to Purdue, using them to thrive within the university environment. I actively engaged in campus life, eventually assuming leadership positions that impacted 20% of the student body. I also delved into research in the field of Mechanical/Aerospace engineering."

Kaustubh's dedication and achievements did not go unnoticed; He received recognition from the university including the Thomas B. Robinson IFC Man of the Year award, the Research and Innovation Pillar of Excellence award, and the Keith Krach Leadership Scholarship, among others.

"My career and college experience have been significantly influenced by my time at ASD, and I wouldn't be the person I am today without the peers, teachers, and coaches I had during that period."


Kaustubh shares his thoughts on three key groups from his ASD experience that influenced his stellar trajectory:

1) The Teachers—Confidence and Curiosity
"I never excelled on my report card, especially during high school; I distinctly remember how much of a struggle it was to keep up in some of the advanced classes and math courses. Nevertheless, I tried my best, and in that process, I was able to connect with many of the ASD teachers whom I still look up to today. Mr. Erich Gott taught me that confidence is not a personality trait; it’s a skill.  The late Margaret Hurlbut, my 5th-grade teacher, encouraged me to step out of my shell, pursue curiosity, and act in kindness. My high-school AP and Physics teachers further developed that curiosity. Mr. Rigel Crockett and Dr. Likourgos Hristakos, two of my favorite physics teachers, through their passion, sparked my interest in engineering."

2) The Coaches—Consistency and Perseverance
"I wrestled for over 5 years, up until my senior year at ASD. To be honest, I wasn't very good, but I will never forget the lessons my coaches taught me about sports and life. No matter how difficult wrestling was, Coach Aaron Gerst, Jordan Benedict, Sean Schochet, and Christopher Perry showed me the power of grit and consistency. They taught me that I grow in proportion to the weight I willingly take on. They instilled in me the idea that I am greater than my feelings and emotions through the grueling training, and they demonstrated that there is always room for improvement and pushing one's limits. These are the enduring lessons my coaches taught me, and I’ve taken with me through weightlifting in college and now triathlon training."

3) The Friends & Class of 2018—Purpose
"I have always had, and continue to have, the desire to work towards something meaningful that has the power to impact the people around me. In high school, I learned that this goal was meaningless unless I could connect with and learn from the individuals around me. At ASD, I was fortunate enough to serve as the class representative for the Class of 2018 during our junior and senior years. Learning from people who are different from me holds great value for me, and if it weren't for my classmates who believed in me, I would not have developed into the person I am today."

Kaustubh Ray currently works as a Spacecraft Systems Engineer at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. In his free time, he is passionate about cooking, hiking, and triathlon training.

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