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It’s Rocket Science

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It's Not Rocket Science

Rami Hamati ’15, SpaceX Engineer

After submitting over four or five hundred job applications, Rami Hamati ’15 was getting nervous.

His graduation from Columbia University’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) was rapidly approaching, and most of his peers had already lined up jobs, securing a sense of stability as the recently-declared COVID-19 pandemic spread alarm across the world.

One night when getting ready to sleep, Hamati came across a job opening at SpaceX, an aerospace manufacturer led by the prominent founder of Tesla Motors, Elon Musk. Hamati sent in an application from bed, with no expectations.

To his surprise, he was notified that he was selected to interview. After a technical interview then a virtual presentation for the team, Hamati was told he would hear back in 48 hours. But it was only 48 minutes later that he was notified that his application would be moving forward.

Hamati has always been fascinated by flight. As a child, he would build small rockets on his rooftop in Amman. While a student at King’s, he graduated to assembling RC (remote/radio-controlled) planes that he would equip with cameras to take aerial shots of campus.

“That was the closest thing I had to experiencing flight,” Hamati says of the RC planes. “It was a really humbling experience. We’re very grounded on Earth, and sometimes it takes a small RC plane to get you up above to see the whole picture.”

If the RC planes were a lesson in humility, then Hamati's current work must be a memento mori. At SpaceX, he works on mechanical ground support for rocket launches — essentially, designing and developing all systems that support the rocket prior to its launch. This spring, his team has been testing Starship, a fully-reusable rocket designed for transporting space crews, cargo and extraterrestrial tourists.

“We’ve had several anomalies,” says Hamati of the Starship tests. “But this is a research and development program, so you expect that things would fail. It’s all about what you learn from the failures. This is something any student at King’s should know: failure isn’t always the worst thing. You learn a lot from failures. Like the saying, ‘Fail a lot and fail often,’ because you get to learn more.”

It's Not Rocket Science

While Hamati appreciates the edifying nature of failure, he doesn’t allow himself to quit before reaching his goals. Following his graduation from King’s, he enrolled in a joint program in engineering between Wesleyan University in Connecticut and Columbia University in New York. During his first semester at Wesleyan, Hamati approached a professor at the fluid dynamics lab, requesting to join him in research while balancing a full academic load. Continuing his research at the lab throughout his three  years at Wesleyan, Hamati published an article as second author by the time he transitioned to SEAS — a rare feat for an undergraduate. At Columbia, he shifted from a more academic focus to practical application, joining the Columbia Space Initiative and participating in rocket building competitions.

Throughout his time at King’s Academy, college and in his job search, Hamati has never hesitated to ask others for help. His LinkedIn outbox is filled with requests to individuals working in aerospace for informational interviews and advice for breaking into the field. “If you have a dream or an idea that you want to pursue, you have to be patient, you have to be determined. Just keep pushing at it and one way or another the universe will reward you,” he says.

In his last year at King’s, Hamati took one of his biggest leaps of faith: wanting to experience flight from the air, not just by remote control, he sent His Majesty King Abdullah II a letter requesting permission to join his crew on a helicopter ride. As with his SpaceX application, Hamati didn’t expect a response, but shortly received a call inviting him on board.

“From then, I learned that no matter what you need to just keep asking, and at some point you will reach where you want. I can say that I did — I’m living the dream right now.”