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Meet: Joe Kolecki

NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio

What I do at NASA
Hi! My name is Joe Kolecki. I am a physicist at the NASA Glenn Research Center, where I specialize in space environment effects. I study how spacecraft and humans interact with their environment in Earth orbit or on a planetary surface. I have worked for more than 30 years at NASA, where I have conducted a variety of laboratory tests and theoretical studies.

My specialty has become the planet Mars. I made some predictions for the Pathfinder mission and developed an experiment for the Sojourner rover. Working with a variety of specialists in related fields, I was able to demonstrate that the Martian environment is electrically active and will charge objects and people moving about on the Martian surface. I have written and published a considerable amount of material, attended conferences, delivered papers, and often chaired various events.

I enjoy my work very much. I love solving problems and being able to work with both my hands and my mind. Mars has been a personal ambition of mine since I was seven years old when I decided that I would someday go to Mars. While I have not actually gone to Mars myself, my work and my signature have! I was 47 years old when Pathfinder landed, which shows that persistence and hard work do pay off.

As a Child
I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and have always dreamed about space travel. Science and mathematics were my favorite subjects in school. It was often rough going. But in the end, it was certainly worth it! Without extensive education and experience, I never would have been able to achieve my dream of "going to Mars."

My Career Path
While in college, I was involved in a co-op program that allowed me to alternate semesters of classes with semesters of work. (Highly recommended!!!) I came to NASA Lewis (as we were called then) and worked with thin film, solid state electronics. My specialty at that time was solar energy.

After graduation, I came to work full time for NASA, where I have done design work, conducted research, and continued to develop my career as a physicist. As a scientist, I have learned to use mathematics as both a tool and a language. My work has often involved extensive travel, and my activities have included:

  • Graduate courses in science, engineering, and mathematics.
  • A year at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC.
  • Membership on a Congressional Committee with oversight of NASA and the U.S. Air Force.
  • Work on international space flight programs. Management positions.

I left management to develop a new program in Martian environmental interactions science. I wanted to be in on the ground level again and to "get my hands dirty."

What I like to do outside of NASA
I am an active member of the NASA Glenn Learning Technologies Project, conducting interactive learning broadcasts to students of all ages. In this picture, students at Chippewa Elementary School in Brecksville, Ohio, experiment with hands-on activities as a post-conference activity following my videoconference with them on Human Exploration of Mars and the Solar System.

I am an organist, pianist, and composer, specializing in choral-liturgical music. I like to write and give concerts, and I read for relaxation.


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