The decision to apply to – and ultimately attend – a master’s program at the International Space University (ISU) in Strasbourg, France was a major turning point for Joshua Rasera (BASc 2013, MASc 2015). After completing his MASc in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Waterloo, Josh was unsure of his path forward. “I've always been fascinated by science and science fiction, especially anything related to space – I had always wanted to work in the space industry but didn’t know how to get there,” Josh said. “The program at ISU helped me find the specific area of space exploration that I was interested in, and ultimately started the journey that has shaped the last nine years of my life.” Josh has occupied many academic and professional spaces since graduation and living at Conrad Grebel University College. 

Josh chose Waterloo for the engineering program, and Grebel because he had read that “it had a superior meal plan and was relatively small compared to some of the other residences,” both of which were very appealing to him. “Living in an environment that prioritized mutual respect and diverse perspectives taught me the importance of empathy and open-mindedness,” Josh explained. "The Grebel community profoundly influenced my identity and personal values through its emphasis on inclusivity, community engagement, and holistic development.”  

During his second year of university, Josh was a Don at the College working alongside Mary Brubaker-Zehr, and he admired her “cool-headedness, openness, and patience.” As a Grebel Don, Josh was responsible for fostering a supportive and inclusive community among students. This not only required effective communication and conflict resolution, but also the ability to inspire and motivate others. “My involvement as a Don significantly impacted my personal growth and development by enhancing my leadership and interpersonal skills,” Josh recalled. He fondly remembered being part of the incoming team of Dons who were responsible for roommate pairing before the term began. “We would go through all of the profiles of the incoming students and try to find the best matches for everyone,” Josh said. “It was a long night (one that also involved the massive XL pizza from Campus Pizza), but I remember it being such a unique and fun experience.” Working as a Don was not only enjoyable, but it taught Josh how to lead with empathy and integrity, manage diverse groups, and handle challenging situations with diplomacy. “The skills I developed have been instrumental in my professional career, enabling me to take on leadership roles with confidence and a strong sense of responsibility,” Josh summarized. 

Josh Rasera

After receiving his MASc, Josh went to work at Unitron Global, a hearing aid manufacturer, in Kitchener. In 2016, he moved to Strasbourg, France to earn a MSc in Space Studies while completing an internship with ispace Europe in Luxembourg. Josh was awarded an Industrial Fellowship from the Luxembourg National Research Fund in 2018 to pursue Ph.D. research at Imperial College London, and he attained his doctorate in June 2023. Since then, he has been working as a postdoctoral research associate at Imperial College, focusing on creating sustainable mineral separation techniques for terrestrial mining, in addition to facilitating mineral processing methods for lunar and extraterrestrial environments.  

An achievement that Josh is particularly proud of was the completion of his PhD. “It was a lot of work and stress, and was made more difficult by the pandemic, as I wasn’t able to access my lab to do the work I had originally planned,” he explained. “Submitting my thesis and completing successfully my viva voce exam (the UK equivalent to a Ph.D. defense) were both extremely rewarding.” Through his work, Josh is dedicated to exploring innovative solutions directed at challenges in terrestrial and space mining, and progressing technologies used for sustainable resource extraction. “Space is an endless frontier for discovery and innovation,” he said. While the idea of traveling between stars at the speed of light is thrilling, Josh’s work as an engineer is rooted in the realities of today's physics. “It's incredibly fulfilling to be part of a field that has the potential to enable sustainable living and working in space,” he added. 

The values of community, inclusivity, and academic excellence that Josh learned and embraced during his time Grebel have remained central to his approach in various aspects of life. “Professionally, the emphasis on interdisciplinary learning has been invaluable in my research work, enabling me to tackle complex problems with a comprehensive and innovative perspective,” Josh described. “Personally, the friendships and networks I built at Grebel have provided ongoing support and inspiration.” Most notably, Josh met his wife, Katie Penner, at Grebel – “I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today, had I not met Katie.” 

Josh explained that the most rewarding part of his life is his daughter, Louisa. “I love spending time with her, reading books, playing together, and watching her learn and grow – every day is rewarding in its own way,” Josh shared. Shortly after marrying in 2016, Josh and Katie got a dog and moved to Europe. In 2022, Louisa was born, and a few months later Josh and his family made another move to Northern Scotland, where they now live in an old house in a village called Strathpeffer. Outside of his work, Josh finds joy in cooking and baking bread, brewing beer, working on house renovations, and spending time with his family. 

Josh wanted to remind current students that “doing well in your program is important, but don’t lose sight of the value of non-academic activities!” He elaborated, “if someone invites you to go on an adventure or to do something fun, try to take them up on it. You’re at a point in your life where it’s possible to do that kind of thing. Once you graduate, have a job, a family, etc., it becomes a lot more difficult to do fun things at odd hours!” 

“I don’t think I would be the person I am today if I hadn’t lived at Grebel,” Josh concluded. The College was, and is, “a wonderful, supportive place to live and learn,” a place where he met his wife, along with the people he now considered to be his best friends.

By Natasha Forth

Joshua Rasera (BASc 2013, MASc 2015) has been working as a Postdoctoral Research associate at Imperial since being awarded his doctorate from Imperial College London in June 2023. Josh completed his degrees in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Waterloo while living at Grebel in residence, as a Don, and as an associate. He, his wife, Katie Penner (BA 2012), and their daughter currently live in an old house in Northern Scotland, while Josh follows his dream of working toward future space exploration.

Josh's story is part of Grebel's 60 Stories for 60 Years project. Check out our 60 Stories page for more articles in this series. If you would like to nominate a Grebel alumnus to share about their experiences at Grebel, please submit a nomination form.