Space Simulation Testing: Jordy Goldstein '06
by Annie Gao '23 for Silver Quest
“I remember getting out there and just being blown away by how much harder it was to actually do it in person than what it was just on paper.” Jordy Goldstein ‘06, shares a memory from her time in the Blair Magnet we are all much too familiar with—the struggle of the steeple measurement in freshman year. “The first time I tried to measure, I got a negative height.”
Goldstein’s favorite part about her experience was the emphasis on hands-on learning. Not surprisingly, her favorite class—and that of many of her peers as well—ended up being Research and Experimentation. “We actually just talked about it at a Thanksgiving reunion this year… so [it was] definitely memorable for other people as well.”
In college, she pursued engineering, a field that fit her love for the application of STEM. “Engineering was a really good fit, where it was really the practical application of all these and you could combine all the things that I liked, and then actually make something from it.” She graduated from Duke University in 2010 with a BSE in Mechanical Engineering and Material Science.
As a Space Simulation Test Labs Manager at SpaceX today, Goldstein works on ensuring that spaceship parts can withstand launch and space through simulation testing. “Space simulation testing is trying to put equipment through environmental testing, similar to what it would see during launch or in space,” she explains. These simulations include thermal chambers, which place parts from intensely cold temperatures to hot temperatures, vibration shakers, thermal vacuum chambers, and shock testing. The latter simulation experiments with model parts and ensures that when their designs are implemented, they can withstand the worst-case shock event.
Teamwork, communication, and collaboration are essential for Goldstein’s work in the aerospace industry. “Everyone has their own specialization, their own thing that they know, and that's why it takes so many people to do it right.” When she first began at SpaceX eight years ago, she worked as a Test Engineer, a much more individual contributor role. In the past four years, however, her responsibility has shifted to one where she is also mentoring, coaching, and leading others. “That's something where, again, being collaborative and having good communication skills goes a long way. Because it means that if one person learns something, we're able to share that with the whole team,” she explains.
A focus on working in large groups is one of Goldstein’s favorite and most rewarding aspects of her career. “There's a lot of other engineers and a lot of brainpower that goes into these tests. It's really neat to see all that come together and see these different people challenge each other to make things better, make things faster, make things more reliable,” she says.
To decide priorities and delegate in her role as manager, Goldstein focuses on getting buy-in from the people she works with, and also ensuring the team can resolve professional disagreements. “A willingness to listen is also huge,” she emphasizes. “It's okay to challenge people, but just also be willing to listen to their point of view and either find the middle ground or find a way to make sure that everyone is in enough agreement about it to move forward… and trying to figure out what to do that's going to be best for your company.”
At the end of the day, Goldstein’s goal is to always challenge herself and her team at SpaceX. “SpaceX does move a lot faster than many other aerospace companies. That's something that is great… and it's hard to imagine doing things any other way.” In 2023, SpaceX aims to complete 100 launches.
Goldstein appreciates the way Blair prepared her for the culture of the workforce. “It was so nice to be around other people who had the same interest as me… in science and math,” she explains. “That gave a lot of practice and a lot of comfort in being able to say what you're thinking and be able to challenge ideas and do so in a setting that was comfortable.” Even after college, Goldstein’s closest friends remained the friends she made during her time at Blair. She also feels that her personal experience at SpaceX has been welcoming, especially compared to a previous role she was in in the oil and gas industry. “That was one where I really noticed that I was the only woman in STEM at my office, and that was one where I did feel like I was being dismissed or talked over or whatever else.”
For over 20 years, Goldstein has also been involved with Destination Imagination, an organization that allows students to work in teams to solve open-ended STEAM challenges. As a former participant and now current international challenge master, Goldstein credits Destination Imagination for inspiring her interest in engineering and her appreciation for an inviting work environment. “We got to engineer things, got to make something from scratch and make it happen and try to troubleshoot and improve on something and have something to show at the end of it, have some results…. I loved that Destination Imagination is a very welcoming environment.”
For students who are interested in pursuing a career in the aerospace or engineering industry, she recommends trying to get an internship as soon as possible. “Part of that is to make sure that it is what you're interested in. Engineering as a job can be different from academic engineering.” She also wants students to remember the importance of finding a future career that’s the right fit for them as a person. “It's very important to be true to yourself. It's very easy to sometimes get caught up in what the next accomplishment is, or when the next milestone is. It's really important to try to recognize what makes you happy and what you truly want to do.”