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George Mason CDS student’s cross-country journey brings him closer to his lifelong dream

George Mason University student Oliver Yu has long aspired to work with NASA and delve into space exploration. With graduation approaching in May, his dream job awaits. 

CDS graduate Oliver Yu stands in front of Mason's Observatory

"Working with NASA has always been my ultimate goal," said Oliver Yu, a senior majoring in computational and data science(CDS) at George Mason University's College of Science. With a strong emphasis on practical applications and hands-on learning, he plans to expand his science and engineering background, all in pursuit of his ultimate goal—working for NASA. 

Yu, who graduated from Lake Orion High School in 2019, hails from Michigan. His journey to George Mason University began when a research mentor at Oakland University recommended George Mason for its exceptional research opportunities and connections in government. Intrigued by the university's commitment to supporting first-generation college students and its renowned faculty, Oliver was drawn to George Mason. "Mason's commitment to providing research opportunities for undergraduates sets it apart,” Yu remarked, reflecting on why he chose to attend. “It's rare to find a university where students can dive into research right away, and that hands-on experience was invaluable for me." he explained.  

Yu, quickly immersed himself in research opportunities, including roles as a research assistant at the Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine, the First Gen+ Center, and C5I.  

Beyond his academic pursuits, Yu continues to remain active in campus life, serving as a Patriot Leader during orientation and working in the Office of New Student and Family Programs. As his graduation approaches, Yu eagerly anticipates transitioning into a new role as an electrical engineer at Lockheed Martin, a company deeply involved in NASA projects, bringing him one step closer to his lifelong dream of a career in space exploration. 

During the summer of his junior year, Yu completed an internship at Lockheed Martin, where he gained valuable experience. That experience paralleled the supportive atmosphere he encountered at George Mason, where hands-on learning and research opportunities were readily available. Yu mentioned that he was fortunate to receive an offer based on his research experience and guidance he received from professors in the C5I center within George Mason's College of Engineering and Computing. 

His academic journey took an unexpected turn when he shifted from pursuing a major in health administration to CDS. This change came after a conversation with Professor John Lyver, an ex-NASA scientist, a computational data science professor at George Mason. Professor Lyver's guidance helped Yu align his academic pursuits with his lifelong ambition.

These experiences enriched his time in college and helped him develop valuable skills and insights that would shape his career. According to Yu, CDS academic advisor Edgar Garcia and Mason Science mentors such as Assad Khan and Nicholas Clarkoffered insights and encouragement every step of the way. "The support I received from my mentors at Mason was truly invaluable," Yu reflected. "Their guidance helped me navigate challenges and seize opportunities; I am so very thankful.” 

For students early in their academic careers, Yu encourages engagement in research and exploring diverse opportunities as soon as possible to gain practical skills and insights beyond the classroom. "Don't be afraid to put yourself out there and make connections with faculty and peers," he said. Yu's advice highlights the transformative impact of Mason's supportive environment, which empowers students to have it all—pursue their passions while also excelling academically and professionally. He believes that Mason's combination of research opportunities, supportive faculty, and proximity to a thriving hub of industry and government makes it an excellent choice for students to pursue their academic and career aspirations. “Our campus locations near Washington, D.C., further enhance opportunities available to Mason students, providing access to a wealth of resources and experiences,” he added. 

Currently enrolled in one of the Mason Science bachelors to accelerated master’s programs (BAM) that allows qualified and motivated undergraduates to complete two degrees usually in five years,Yu will also graduate with a Master’s in Geoinformatics and Geospatial Intelligence a year from now in spring, 2025.