IST alum heads to International Space University, hopes Mars is next stop

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — Born in the United States and raised in Hong Kong, Penn State College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) graduate Edward Chan has always felt the constant need to travel. “I haven’t really stayed into one place for too long,” he said. 

After hopping a few thousand miles across the country for various jobs, his sights are now set even further. As a future student of the International Space University in Strasbourg, France, he dreams of being one of the first million people to live on Mars. “My childhood and adulthood made me an explorer,” he said. “And I think of Mars as the backup hard drive for humanity.”

His desire for exploration led him first to enlist as an active member of the National Guard, serving while he was a student at Penn State. Like many enlisted service members earning their degree, he found himself juggling multiple priorities. “Throughout my experience, Penn State was really flexible when I had to serve,” he said. “And Stan Aungst, who taught courses in Security and Risk Analysis, was really inspiring to me as a veteran. It made [Penn State] feel like home.”

Chan came to Penn State in 2011 to earn a Bachelor of Science in IST with a focus in design and development. “I had such diverse interests, so IST was a great fit,” he explained. “You can pretty much design your curriculum so if you want exposure to another field, you can do it. Through that, I got an idea of what I wanted to do.”

After graduating, he began working as an associate integration consultant at Workday, a leader in enterprise cloud applications for finance and human resources. “I loved my job at Workday so much,” he said. There, he was able to use his degree in IST to design and deploy technology-based solutions for external clients. “It was very rewarding for me to be able to connect businesses with technology they needed,” Chan said.

In addition to his full-time job, Chan began volunteering at rLoop, an open-source, online think tank to contribute to the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition. The competition aims to create the world’s first hyperloop, a high-speed transportation system conceptualized by Elon Musk.

“I’m a huge Elon Musk fanboy,” he said. “At rLoop, we were just a bunch of loonies that formed a team for this competition and design.” At the end of nearly every day, he focused on rLoop, working as an embedded systems engineer where he created software and collaborated on designs.

When his group won the Competition’s Pod Innovation Award and were able to show their project to Elon Musk, Chan was thrilled. After spending almost all his free time after work on the project, he said of that moment, “All the hard work paid off!”

Following a few years of working full-time and volunteering with rLoop, he again felt that familiar pull to explore. He applied to the International Space University and was accepted to their Master of Space Study program, beginning in the fall of 2017. “It’s a broad exposure program of space exploration,” he explained. “It covers all disciplines related to space programs and enterprises like space science, engineering, policy and law, business and management, and society."

He believes the future of humanity can be brighter beyond Earth. “I’m really interested in international collaboration. Because if only the U.S. goes to Mars, that won’t help everyone,” he said. “I believe that political and cultural differences could be erased when there is a shared dream of space.”

After completing his degree at the International Space University, Chan is not sure what will be next. But aside from hoping to live on Mars, one thing is certain, he said — “I’m always looking for my next adventure.”

Last Updated June 12, 2017