Genesis Paz, a first generation student awarded nasa connecticut space grant consortium award

NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium Award Helps First-Generation College Student Fulfill Engineering Dreams

Genesis Paz was nine when her uncle first showed her the guts of a television. Mesmerized by its motherboard and outsized monitor, she watched carefully as he repaired the appliance. Later, he fixed a computer. She watched that, too. Each time her uncle had something to fix, Paz was by his side, asking questions.

“He worked in electronics, so I used to watch what he did,” recalled Paz, who is currently earning a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering at University of Bridgeport. “I got interested in it.”

Paz’s interest in electronic systems not only grew, it inspired Paz to dream boldly about her future: she enrolled at the University of Bridgeport, becoming the first person in her family to attend college. She also became an American citizen. Her next goal: to graduate by 2020 and begin a career as a hardware engineer “for a company like Intel,” Paz said.

Thanks to a $5,000 scholarship recently awarded to her from the NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium, reaching those goals just became easier for Paz.

The Space Grant Consortium scholarship “helps me pay for tuition so I don’t have to work so much. It’s pretty awesome,” said Paz, who crams her weekends with nine- and 10-hour shifts making smoothies at a vegan restaurant all while carrying a full course load. To stay on top of her computer engineering classes, Paz grabs valuable study time on the train as she commutes to the University’s main Bridgeport campus from Stamford, CT, where she shares a rental apartment with her aunt and cousins.

With the stress of balancing work and life somewhat ameliorated, Paz can spend more time doing what she has always loved best: learning all that she can about computer engineering.

People say computers just run on zeros and ones,” Paz said, “but I love how you can use those zeros and ones to get a computer to understand and make it do what you want it to do!”

Connecticut Space Grant Consortium’s support also extends to faculty, and in addition to supporting Paz, it awarded a $10,000 research grant to Khaled Elleithy, PhD, dean of the College of Engineering, Business, and Education at University of Bridgeport.

Elleithy’s research investigates issues related to satellite Internet and networks. Results from his work, which Elleithy is conducting at the University’s Wireless & Mobile Communications Laboratory and in collaboration with Dr. Akram Abu-aisheh from the University of Hartford, aim to help designers create and implement more robust and efficient networks supporting a variety of multimedia applications on satellites.

Jani Macari Pallis, PhD, Connecticut space grants director at the University of Bridgeport, said, “We are once again grateful to the NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium’s continued sponsorship. It supports University of Bridgeport faculty research, and it’s an enormous boost to dedicated students like Genesis, who often sacrifice so to complete their university education and contribute to the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.”