Bryan Calungcagin’s decision to pursue a master’s degree in systems engineering at Loyola Marymount University seemed fated.
He met his wife, Adeleen, while she was an engineering graduate student at LMU after earning her bachelor’s in chemistry there.
When she received an invitation to hear Tom Mueller, former SpaceX propulsion chief technology officer and LMU alumnus, speak at the university, Calungcagin enthusiastically jumped at the opportunity to attend. He got a chance to talk with Mueller, who once worked at Northrop Grumman’s legendary Building 67, where Calungcagin worked on experimental projects that would put Mythbusters to shame.
But it was the fascinating talk with his wife’s favorite chemistry professor Tina Choe, who is now dean of the Frank R. Seaver College of Science and Engineering, that sealed the deal.
“I felt this is where I want to be,” he says, and soon began taking one class at a time while working full-time at Northrop Grumman and balancing life with his wife and two young sons. He credits his success and determination to get his degree to his wife’s belief in him and wanting to be a good role model for his kids.
Calungcagin is driven by a life-long and wide-ranging curiosity about how things work and a can-do drive to make things happen.
“I love ideas,” he says. “Give me an idea, and I’ll tell you if it will work. And if not, then I’ll tell you how to make it work.”
One of the ideas he proved while working in Building 67 was that 3-D printing is possible in a vacuum, which paves the way for on-orbit manufacturing from a satellite. The work in Building 67 fascinated him, but after earning his graduate degree, he landed a promotion managing a Systems Engineering group focused on Cybersecurity.
“One of my last classes at LMU was Systems Engineering Cybersecurity,” Calungcagin says. “I was afraid I couldn’t handle it. I took the class and absolutely loved it.”
Learning from professors with real-world experience is one of the things Calungcagin loved about his LMU education.
He never imagined that his own real world experience would lay the foundation for his own career. His early work as an auto mechanic and freelance network administrator while he earned his bachelor’s degree have all come into play.
He’s so excited about his work that he often finds it hard to sleep, eager for the next workday. This excitement fuels his drive to succeed, as well as his confidence that if he works hard enough he can accomplish his goals.
“You’ve got to drive yourself – keep growing and achieving. That’s the fun part of life.”
His next goal is the Certified Information Systems Security Professional Exam. Then Calungcagin hopes to return to school for a doctorate in Cybersecurity.
“My dream is to be able to work and teach.If I can inspire the next generation of young engineers -including my sons- to bring their ideas to life and stay motivated to learn, then all of the hard work will be worth it.”