Michaela Antolak

Antolak Orbital
Michaela Antolak standing outside of her workplace, Orbital ATK, where she works as a quality engineer.

As a quality engineer for test operations at Orbital ATK, Michaela Antolak’s main role is ensure that all documents, processes, and engineering requirements are met prior to the testing of flight and propulsion systems. Her time at Iowa State served her well in preparing for the working world, whether in the classroom, or while involved with CySAT and Women’s Ice Hockey. Eventually an application for an internship paid off in the best possible way. And although Antolak enjoys her job, she still has her sights set towards the sky.


How did you land your job?

At the time I was applying for full time jobs there were no entry level positions available at ATK, so I applied for an internship since many companies hire interns full time after they graduate. I had an interview with one of the hiring managers. Since I was graduating soon he didn’t want to hire me for an internship (they were looking for juniors and seniors who still had a semester or more until graduation). He told me that he would keep me in mind for a full time position should one open up. Thankfully, one day before accepting a job offer at another company I got a call from the hiring manager who interviewed me for the internship about a job opportunity as a Quality Engineer in Test Operations. I am so glad that I accepted his offer. I have had a great time working for ATK, now Orbital ATK.

What is your fondest memory of your time as an undergrad in the department/ at ISU?

Going to all the different seminars that the aerospace department held, especially the one with Clayton Anderson. I have always wanted to be an astronaut, so being able to hear about his astronaut experience was very inspiring.

What was the most valuable thing you learned as an aerospace engineering undergrad?

For my current job, the lectures we had on Engineering Ethics in Senior Design have been the most valuable thing I learned as an undergrad. My job is all about making sure procedures and engineering requirements are followed and to accurately report any issues.

What advice would you offer current aerospace engineering undergrads?

Start applying for internships right away. Sometimes companies hire former interns in many of their entry-level jobs. Also, get involved in some kind of engineering/science club. These kinds of activities give the hands-on experience companies look for in students.

Where do you hope to be (in your career) in the next five years?

I hope to be a Test Engineer for Orbital ATK or an Astronaut for NASA (or CSA). I can start applying to the CSA Astronaut Corp after two years of work experience and to NASA after three years. I will apply to both CSA and NASA when they open a requisition for applications after completing my required years of experience.

Talk about your involvement in the QM-1 Static Test:

I helped review the planning that built up the static motor as well as to disassemble the motor. I also helped check setup files for the static test; there were more that 500 channels of data being recorded during the test. In addition to planning and setup files, I provided on-floor support to a few operations building up the static test motor. A couple examples: mating of segments and nozzle plug installation.