I oversee the engineering activities associated with the telescope's OTA subsystem as well as the science instruments. It is my job to make sure that we are operating these subsystems as intended, as well as to work to solve any problems that arise during the course of operations. Quite often, I like to think of my job as a problem solver. Operations specialists monitor the telescope's engineering telemetry data almost continuously. They make sure that the telescope is operating according to it's command load or instructions. At times, this engineering telemetry gives us clues that a science instrument or other subsystem is operating differently than we expected. One of my favorite tasks is to set up the framework for solving these one-of-a-kind problems. Specifically, I work with many people from many different specialties in spacecraft systems. I help to define the problem, develop several possible solutions, and present the problem and possible solutions to upper level management in a straightforward manner. Once a course of action is selected, I oversee the process to make sure the solution is implemented properly and effectively. I enjoy seeing it all come together. It is gratifying to see a problem that at first appeared to be very difficult, become understandable and result in a very good and practical solution.
Deciding on what career I would pursue was more of a process than a single decision. During my first year in college, I went for the challenge of pursing a degree in electrical engineering. I was fortunate to have summer jobs that helped me learn what engineers really did. In my first job out of college, I was assigned the responsibility of testing a primary weather sensor once it was integrated with its spacecraft. I enjoyed this work immensely. Every day, it seemed as though there was always more to learn.
During that time period, I drove past the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) many times. I was fascinated with news reports of attempts to control a spacecraft that had gone awry. Being motivated by challenge and wanting to understand more, I made a decision that some day I wanted to work for GSFC. At first I worked as contractor helping with the design of new ground communication systems for transporting data. Later I had an opportunity to work as a GSFC civil servant employee helping to manage the development of a new ground system for controlling communication satellites. However, I always held on to my dream of working with spacecraft. When I heard that HST was looking for help, I jumped at the opportunity. The opportunity to participate in the HST first servicing mission was more than a dream come true.
My preparation for this career involved and still involves a daily decision to work diligently at whatever task I may be assigned. "One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys - Proverbs 18:9". Whenever I've taken short cuts in my school work, most often I've found that I have to go back and learn it the right way anyway. My college degree is from Purdue University in electrical engineering. I've taken many classes after my bachelors degree to continue to build my skills. The best preparation for me is to do whatever task is put before me with a goal of excellence.
The best thing about my job is knowing that the work we do is appreciated by scientists and the public alike. I am married and have a five-year old daughter and a two-year old son. It is great to see even my family get excited about the great pictures that come from HST. The thing I like least about my job are the mundane tasks such as updating progress schedules.
As a kid I knew very little about the field of engineering, however, I did have a burning desire to know how things worked. I had a reputation with my father for fixing things. My dad still claims that I fixed things such that they never worked again. My dad endured my tinkering and was very proud to see me become an engineer.
For anyone interested in becoming an engineer I definitely recommend that they follow a college preparatory curriculum with heavy emphasis on math and science. Master as much of a subject as you can in high school; you will definitely see it's importance in college and many times later in life. At the same time don't neglect your other subjects. It is important to be well- rounded. Consider joining special interests clubs and participating in athletics. These provide an important outlet as well as help to build people skills. The best overall advice I can give is to work diligently, always have a backup plan, and take each day one at a time.
My father was the greatest influence in my decision to pursue engineering by his example in taking on great challenges in his career. He worked hard and always made the best of his circumstances. Above all, I was definitely influenced to set a course of action and stick with it. Whatever course of action one chooses, ultimately the decision and responsibility is theirs.