NASA Ames Research Center
Who I Am and What I Do
I am a design engineer for equipment needed for biological sciences.
I am currently working as an environmental microbiologist in the hyper-arid
deserts of Peru and Chile in order to gain a better understanding of
how and where the scientists look for life. My goal is to take that
knowledge and design new methods and technologies which can be sent
to our neighboring planets to help try to answer two of our most fundamental
questions: “Is there life outside of our planet?” and, “Does
it look (biologically) like us?”
Areas of expertise
Biological Sciences, General Engineering (Electrical, Mechanical, Thermal,
Electronics, etc.), Physics, Mathematics, Environmental Engineering
and Sciences, Planetary Sciences.
What helped prepare me for this job
An insatiable curiosity, willingness to work hard (and sometimes for
free), not being afraid to learn something new, and really believing
in the value of these projects for the greater good of humanity.
My education and training
I have a B.S. in Engineering Physics from the University of Nevada,
Reno. This is a combined degree in Physics and Electrical Engineering.
Additionally I studied Computer Science, Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering,
and Journalism. This gave me a very wide course of study that provided
the foundation to be able to understand many areas on a general level.
I’ve also completed half of a Masters degree at Stanford University
studying Mechanical Engineering and Medical Sciences. My background
in environmental engineering and sciences has come from working with
many talented Ph.D. microbiologists and reading everything I can on
the subject. I most likely will complete a Masters in Environmental
Engineering and Sciences and continue with a Ph.D.
My career path
I started as an undergraduate intern at Johnson Space Center in Houston
working on tool design for the Astronauts to use in space and with Astronaut
training. After graduation, I became the manager of the Lighting and
Environment Test Facility where I was responsible for designing and
testing lighting systems for the Shuttle and International Space Station
programs. After a year of that position, I moved to Ames Research Center
in California where I was responsible for the design of some of the
hardware and qualification of all of the hardware for the Space Shuttle
Flight STS-90, which was a flight dedicated to Space Life Sciences Research.
After that flight, I became the lead systems engineer for the Space
Station Biological Research Project in which I was responsible for ensuring
that all of the hardware designed for this project would connect properly
with Space Station (such as connections for mechanical, thermal cooling,
electrical and power, and communications). For several years I worked
concurrently at Stanford University on microbiological detection systems
and for the last three years I have worked in environmental microbiology
and life-detection technologies for the “Life in the Atacama”
What I like about my job
The best things about my job are that I get to work with many talented
people from around the world, I get to work in the field in many interesting
places, I get to do the work myself in the laboratory, I get to explore
the world around us, that there is so much to learn and understand that
you can pretty much do anything you want, and I get the satisfaction
that my work is for the greater good of humanity.
My advice to anyone interested in this occupation
First of all, you don’t have to be the best student in the class
(though the harder you study, the better off you will be) and you don’t
have to know today what you want to do with the rest of your life. If
you have an interest, read everything you can about it, but don’t
stop with reading, figure out a way to do part of it right now. Don’t
wait! Find somebody who does what you want to do (or things like what
you want to do) and ask them if you can spend time working for them.
If they say, “No,” keep asking people until you find somebody
who says, “Yes.” Never ever take “No” for an
answer. I’ve always found that if you are curious, enthusiastic,
and willing to work hard (and sometimes for free), that you will find
somebody to say, “Yes.” And if you still can’t find
somebody to say, “Yes”, do it anyway. There are always science
and engineering fairs. Follow this path and you will find yourself doing
what you want to do and what you like to do.