Ethan Tsai


Sapere aude. Dare to know.



University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Bachelor of Science, Physics

Graduated with Honors, June 2017

Technical Skills

Technical management: including but not limited to DevOps, leading daily standups (scrum), personnel management, risk management, process implementation

Systems engineering (AI&T)• QA/Bench testing

Embedded systems • Technical Writing


Matlab + Simulink • Python • LaTeX

Published Work

Tsai, E. et al., January 2017 (American Institute of Physics, Physics of Plasmas)

Ion Motion in a Polarized Current Sheet. doi: 10.1063/1.4975017


NASA space Grant Scholarship (2015, 2016, 2017)

Hello and welcome to my website! Let me tell you a bit about myself.

I’m currently the project manager of the ELFIN Cubesat mission at UCLA. These two satellites were launched aboard the final Delta II rocket on September 15th, 2018 and are currently orbiting, healthy, and streaming down exciting space weather measurements. This is the project I’m most proud of; it took thousands of hours, bringing a large engineering team of undergraduate students together to overcome immense logistical and technical challenges. Our UCLA team not only built two flight-ready satellites from scratch under heavy time constraints, but we also operate the satellites using custom-built ground stations and ground control software.

By trade, I jump between being an engineer or technical manager as needed, but ultimately, I’m a physicist at heart. Before my tenure as PM, I developed and tested the control algorithms for ELFIN while also doing theoretical physics research. The way I approach problems and trade studies is a first principles approach, never proceeding until the foundations are well understood. It’s an important mentality that has eventually carried me through successful management of various disciplines of engineering at a rapid productive pace. It is this same trait that allowed me to publish on a topic that was originally completely foreign to me in a short amount of time.

Today, I believe that pushing the field of high tech with a focus on education is the most efficient way to positively impact people across the world. My strengths lie in my ability quickly solve multidisciplinary problems, as I wear a lot of hats in my line of work. I look forward to tackling the next big challenges.


Read ELFIN’s feature on and at!

It all began with music.



At age 5, all I knew was diligence, discipline, and determination. Sometimes practicing for 10 hours straight, repeating a single passage hundreds of times, painstakingly developing my violin technique; it paid off.



At 8, I learned competition. Starting with 1st in Northern California, I quickly became state champion of solo strings (VOCE 2006).



At 12, I finally learned to enjoy music and spread my enthusiasm. In December 2008, I made my international debut with the Guangzhou Philharmonic in Guangzhou, China. I have since soloed with the Hong Kong Youth Orchestra, California Youth Symphony, and the Kostroma Philharmonic, and toured many parts of the United States, Europe, Russia, and China. But I sill kept my competitive edge that defines me today. At age 17, I was awarded first prize in the American Fine Arts Festival International Concerto Competition (2012) and first prize in the Alexander and Buono International String Competition (2012).

(I still play occasionally, and you can check out some videos and past accomplishments here!)


Then things changed...



At 18, I fell in love with physics. Drawn in by the allure and mystical nature of quantum computing, I needed to know more and wouldn’t stop reading novel physics papers. One thing led to the next, and although I applied to many music institutions, I found myself pursuing a physics degree at UCLA. However, I got distracted; Los Angeles, being the heart of the aerospace industry, led me to grow a new-found interest in space physics and exploration.



At 19, I began working on a NASA-funded multi-million dollar satellite mission: ELFIN. For three years, I was the ADCS lead of the ELFIN team, where I managed a team working on the attitude determination software and attitude control algorithms of ELFIN and worked alongside some of the finest engineers in the industry.



At 22, I published my first paper in space plasma physics and became ELFIN's project manager. As PM, I managed ELFIN's 3m+ USD funding, a bright group of around 60 enthusiastic engineers, as well as the integration, testing, and development of both spacecraft. I did all this, while wrapping up my BS in physics at UCLA.



At 23, I’m proud to say our team successfully delivered ELFIN on time with no major issues and the launch of the final Delta II was as smooth as it was spectacular. I’ve finally put my first objects in space!!!



Today, I’m managing a team of ~15 software devs working to make ELFIN operations more automated and reliable as we continue to collect science data from the two satellites. I also started doing some photography as a hobby; you can check out my work on my tidbits page.

I currently shoot with a Fujifilm X-T3.

You can see some selected shots in my tidbits section.