Looking Back on Undergraduate Research: An Interview with Masi Yamada ‘94

In a continuation of last year’s seasonal series, this winter, each PCUR will interview a Princeton alumnus from their home department about his/her experience writing a senior thesis. In Looking Back on Undergraduate Research: Alumni Perspectives, the alumni reveal how conducting independent research at Princeton influenced them academically, professionally, and personally. Here, Alexandra shares her interview.


As part of our Seasonal Series, I had the opportunity to interview Masi Yamada ’94, a Mechanical and Aerospace Engineer (MAE). He is currently working as a Managing Director at J.P. Morgan Chase and offered insight about studying MAE and transferring that into the world of finance.

                     A photo of Masi Yamada

AK: Why did you choose to major in MAE?

MY: A lot of it was the generation I grew up in—as kids, we grew up seeing Star Wars and all those sorts of things; the space shuttle had been developed and there were a lot of engineering and economic resources being put towards defense and aerospace. The Cold War was still going on, so there was an ongoing buildup of arms and technology against the Russians. Back then, aerospace was viewed much like the startup and technology field is viewed now—that was where all the interesting tech jobs were.

I grew up thinking that I wanted to work at NASA—it was always my intention to go into the aerospace industry—but then reality set in. The Berlin Wall collapsed in 1989 and by the time we had graduated in ‘94, the aerospace and defense industry had been downsized and NASA’s budget was being cut. A few of us went on to graduate school, but the majority of us followed the classic Princeton path, going into finance and consulting because those were the companies that were recruiting very heavily at the time.

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