Meet a Roadrunner: Paul Hamilton turned his life around to become a NASA engineer
(Jan. 18, 2017) -- Meet Paul Hamilton. This exemplary engineering student is looking forward to a career with NASA.
Hamilton, who was born in San Antonio but grew up in Helotes, was never quite sure what kind of career he wanted to pursue. A dedicated athlete in high school, a disciplinary incident resulted in his expulsion as a senior, an experience that initially left him a little lost.
"I had some rough formative years," he said. "To be where I'm at now is just surreal."
One thing Hamilton has a wealth of, though, is dedication. He set out to finish his high school degree at an alternative school, which requires students to attend for at least four hours a day but allows them to learn at their own pace. Hamilton attended for 11 hours each day and finished the remainder of his degree in 30 days. That allowed him to graduate eight months ahead of his friends at his former high school.
Initially, Hamilton pursued a degree at Northwest Vista College. After discovering that engineering was a lucrative, exciting career and that UTSA had a top-tier College of Engineering, he made the decision to transfer in 2013.
"UTSA was an outstanding fit for me," he said. "I liked that it was a more tight-knit school and had such a strong sense of community."
He quickly became a part of that community, working in the Institute for P-20 Initiatives and as a tour guide to prospective students.
"Being a tour guide really bonded me with UTSA," Hamilton said. "I know at least a handful of people in every building on campus. Being a student here is just a very personal experience."
In the fall of 2014, Hamilton took time away from his classes to accept an internship at NASA. He worked on a variety of projects, including writing software for mission control that was used in the fall of 2014 flight of the Orion spacecraft, which later that year was launched into low Earth orbit. He also helped to improve the piloting systems on other spacecraft.
"The experience with NASA has been surreal, to put it succinctly," he said. "The things that they do are so cutting edge. It's incredible work, and here I am, some small-town kid thrown into the mix with the world's brightest minds. I feel like Charlie in the chocolate factory."
Hamilton returned to UTSA in 2015, but subsequently took three more semesters off to continue working with NASA. He's now set to graduate in May, and has accomplished his goal to leave college debt free, thanks in part to the Ed Whitacre Leadership Scholarship. The $10,000 merit-based scholarship, which is named for celebrated General Motors engineer Ed Whitacre, allowed Hamilton to pay off the remainder of his loans and focus on completing his studies.
"I was excited because I had already read Whitacre's book. When I heard the news, I wrote him a letter to thank him," he said. "UTSA really has been a great experience. I'm going to miss it, but I know life goes on."
Though Hamilton has received several lucrative offers, he's accepted a full-time job with NASA developing satellite communications systems in conjunction with several different government projects.
Experience a fun, interactive week at UTSA as new students and their families take the first steps to becoming a Roadrunner.Various locations, Main Campus and Downtown Campuses
Finance and Budget Modeling Task Force presents a panel presentation of experts from 4 universities with experience in incentive-based budgeting. All UTSA campus community is invited to attend and be informed about budgeting processes.Business Building Richard Liu Auditorium (BB 2.01.02), Main Campus
This event showcases the work of trainees, faculty, staff and students from multiple disciplines and public health agencies across San Antonio.H-E-B Student Union Ballroom (HSU 1.104), Main Campus
This exhibit highlights the UTSA Special Collections, which includes historic photographs from Texas, San Antonio and UTSA history.UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, Hemisfair Campus
Come learn about the benefits available before the enrollment period July 15-31.Business Building University Room (BB 2.06.04), Main Campus
Come learn about the benefits available before the enrollment period July 15-31.Durango Building River Walk Room (DB 1.124), Downtown Campus
The UTSA Art Collection and UT Health San Antonio present art exhibit opening reception for show featuring works from the private collection of Retired Air Force Master Sargent Cody Vance. Focus is the nexus of art and science.South Texas Research Facility lobby, 8403 Floyd Curl Dr., San Antonio
The gala brings together UTSA alumni, friends and guests to celebrate the association's 41 years of scholarships, services, programs and the 2018 Alumni Award recipients.Hyatt Hill Country Resort and Spa, 9800 Hyatt Resort Dr, San Antonio