A chance encounter in the workplace is what led Rebecca Venegas, M.S ’20, to find her purpose as an electro-optics engineer.

Venegas, a scientist who specializes in integration and characterization of EO systems, was looking for meaning in her work after graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a degree in Astronautics and Aeronautics.

Her work with systems and sensors allows scientists to examine variables of controlled environments with accuracy and precision. This would prove to be useful during her time with Lockheed, where she took a job after graduating.

Glenn Goranson, a UCF CREOL graduate and Lockheed affiliate himself, would soon become the mentor of Venegas during her time with the company.

Goranson inspired Venegas to further pursue her education with CREOL after touting the merits of the program. He suggested that she take advantage of a new program that allowed employees of Lockheed to take CREOL classes on site and after work hours.

“For me, this was the best way for me to approach graduate level education and was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” said Venegas. “I had real world motivation for this degree. I learn best when I can apply what I’m learning directly to problems and tasks to solve versus theoretical perspectives in the classroom.”

Venegas was concerned enrolling at CREOL would mean a lack of flexibility and balance with her already busy schedule. But working long days and studying at night didn’t deter Venegas as she delved into the program with an open mind.

“One of my worries was if I would be able to form connections with my peers in the program as we were part-time students and full-time employee,” said Venegas. “But CREOL provided a wonderful group of people to work with and study with, treating us no differently than full-time students.”

Venegas points to the time spent in the program as relevant to her current career with MIT Lincoln Labs. As a staff researcher and developer that works directly with the U.S. government, Venegas notes that everything she learned with CREOL is applicable to her career now.

“I serve on the Active Systems Group at MIT and pretty much everything I learned at my time with CREOL is directly applicable to the projects I work on now,” Venegas said. “My career with Lockheed and MIT has diversified me as a scientist and my time spent with CREOL deepened the diversification. Having a link between my career and education gave me so much motivation to master the material outside of a passing grade.”