Meet Elon Musk’s Top MIT Talent

by Joe McGonegal on October 22, 2014 · 0 comments

in Engineering, Space

Though Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk devoted his college years to some other institutions (that will go unnamed), dozens of MIT alumni have played key roles in advancing these two companies in recent years.

Before hearing Musk speak at Kresge Auditorium this Friday during the AeroAstro Centennial Symposium, consider these thirteen MIT talents who have helped propel his various ventures forward.

Lars Blackmore PhD ’07, Entry, Descent and Landing team leader for SpaceX

“I’m responsible for landing the Falcon 9 rocket. Whereas existing rockets burn up in the atmosphere after lofting their payload, we are working on the Falcon 9R (‘reusable’) rocket, which will be able to land on a pad, be refueled, and fly again. So far we’ve done two successful ocean landings of F9R, as stepping stones to landing on a barge or a landing pad.”

Peter Capozzoli MBA ’05, SM ’06, Director of Commercial Mission Management, SpaceX

Capozzoli joined SpaceX in 2006, serving as senior mission manager for NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services and Commercial Resupply Services cargo missions to the International Space Station.

Carter Chang ’12, Corporate Development, SolarCity

I conduct acquisitions, corporate strategy, and operational improvements. My involvement includes management across the complete life cycle of the acquisition-from diligence, through negotiations, and then active development with the portfolio companies. Recently, we completed the $350mm acquisition of Silevo, a solar cell manufacturing company. Musk’s vision in providing cleaner, cheaper energy to the world inspires us at SolarCity to make the world a better place.

Paul Tompkins ‘92.

Paul Tompkins ‘92.

Jim Dunlay ’79, VP of Powertrain Hardware Engineering, Tesla 

Dunlay joined Tesla in 2009. He oversees engineering development and manufacturing of its EV powertrain components and systems, including the lithium-ion traction battery systems, power electronic traction motor control systems, battery charging systems, AC induction traction motors, EV transmissions and HV interconnect systems.

Doug Field SM ’92, VP of Vehicle Programs, Tesla 

Musk hired Field away from Apple in 2013, where he led development of MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and iMac. Prior to that, he held engineering roles at Ford and Segway. Said Musk: “Doug’s experience in both consumer electronics and traditional automotive makes him an important addition to our leadership team.”

Tairin Hahn SM ’06, MechE ’09, Senior Software Engineer, SolarCity

Hahn’s code fuels the UI of SolarCity, the company Musk chairs that bills itself as “America’s largest solar power provider.” The website helps customers make decisions about their home or business energy use.

Cal Lankton SM ’10, MBA ’10, Director, Global EV Infrastructure, Tesla

Lankton is working to expand the availability of Tesla Supercharger stations across the country. Currently, there are 216 such stations on major highways in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, with chargers that provide another 170-mile range to a Tesla in about 30 minutes.

Kevin Lohner SM ’99, ‎Lead Propulsion Engineer, Liquid Engine Development, SpaceX

“My work is focused on thrust chamber and nozzle development for the Merlin and Raptor propulsion systems,” Lohner says.

At center, Musk joins Jalpa Patel SM ’12, MBA ‘12 and Cal Lankton SM ’10, MBA ‘10. Photo: Tom Pocrnich.

Musk joins Jalpa Patel SM ’12, MBA ‘12 (third from right) and Cal Lankton SM ’10, MBA ‘10 (second from right). Photo: Tom Pocrnich.

Brian Meade ’93, Propulsion Liaison Engineer, SpaceX

Meade’s career has focused skyward, with stints at the Air Force, NASA, and the FAA. At SpaceX, his goal is simple: “I want to go to Mars…and now I’m doing something about it!”

Jalpa Patel SM ’12, MBA ’12, Senior Project Manager, Tesla

Patel distinguished herself in February by being one of several drivers for Tesla’s first Cross Country Rally: crossing the U.S. in a Tesla Model S sedan in just 76.5 hours. The team used only Tesla supercharging stations on the way and claimed to record the lowest total charge time for such a feat.

Andrew Rader PhD ’09, Mission Integrator, SpaceX

When not working on SpaceX projects, Rader is a game designer, blogger, and TV star!

Paul Tompkins ’92, Manager of Mission Operations, SpaceX

Tompkins leads development, training, and execution of flight operations for SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

Milo Werner SM ’07, MBA ’07, Senior Manager, Manufacturing Introduction, Tesla

Werner is responsible for the release of Tesla’s new vehicle powertrain models. She also manages partnerships between Tesla and other automakers, like Toyota and Daimler, who have employed Tesla batteries in their newest electric cars.

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