Spotlight Series: Matthew Villanueva

July 29, 2021

Palo Alto College engineering student Matthew Villanueva has been selected for the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) program this fall. NCAS gives community college STEM students an authentic NASA experience and encourages them to finish a two-year degree or transfer to a four-year university to pursue a NASA-related field or career.

"This is a great opportunity for community college students like me who dream of being in the field of aerospace engineering," said Villanueva.

Students nationwide are chosen to participate through a competitive process. The program consists of a five-week online course. At the end of the program, students have an opportunity to be selected for the NASA Experience, which is a nine-day event that gives students a closer look at NASA's missions, diverse workforce, and world-class facilities.

"Already, as part of the program, I got the chance to hear from the lead engineer who worked on the Perseverance rover. He talked about his journey from going to community college in California to being a lead engineer at NASA. It's inspiring to see someone get their start at a community college and go on to be very successful in their career," said Villanueva.

This fall, Villanueva will be completing his last semester at Palo Alto College and transferring to the University of Texas at San Antonio. He said he is thankful for all of the support he has received during his time at the College.

"I'm just glad this door opened. Something as simple as a resume for me was one the most stressful and mind-boggling obstacles to overcome," said Villanueva. "I am so thankful because I learned about this opportunity from my engineering professor Felipe Gutierrez, and I was able to take advantage of the resources here at Palo Alto College to get my application submitted for NCAS."

While Villanueva doesn't plan on hopping on a rocket anytime soon, he hopes to one day view a launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and he looks forward to the possibilities of a career in aerospace engineering.

The NCAS program is funded by NASA's Minority University Research and Education program. With this activity, NASA continues the tradition of engaging the nation in its mission of human exploration and sustainable expansion across the solar system and bringing new knowledge and opportunities back to Earth.

To learn more about Palo Alto College’s Engineering program, visit