Meet: Karen Borski
Mission Science Support Engineer
NASA Johnson Space Center
Who am I?
I work as a mission science support engineer at the NASA Johnson Space
Center in Houston, Texas. Most of the work I do involves archiving science
experiments in a computer database called the Life Sciences Data Archive.
An archive is a collection of information in a specific area. This particular
archive will provide information about NASA's life sciences research so
that others, especially researchers, teachers and students, will have
easy access to it using the Internet.
My work on this project includes learning about all of the science experiments
in the current NASA/Mir joint space program, learning about past missions
and experiments (including those that happened before I was even born!)
and working with computers to record all this information. I read about
the science experiments, attend meetings and conferences, and help develop
NASA Web sites - all to help the public understand the types of science
research that is done at NASA and the outcome and benefits of that research.
I am constantly communicating with other NASA employees who work at different
locations all over the country. We use e-mail, phone-conferencing and
sometimes video-conferencing to stay in touch. In my office, I work closely
with others in small teams, but also spend time working alone.
My Career Journey
In school, I didn't have any favorite courses, but was interested in
wide-ranging topics such as writing, music, drawing, science, English
and history. Because of this, I had a difficult time choosing a specific
educational path to follow once I got to college. I had always been interested
in the space program, since I am fascinated by adventure and travel. Mostly
due to the sound of the name, I decided that majoring in aerospace engineering
would allow me the best chance for a career in the space program.
But after talking with working engineers, professors and other students,
I decided I would change my major to bioengineering. This degree combines
the study of engineering with the study of medicine and physiology (how
the human body works). I had learned that a great variety of people work
at NASA and only a fraction of those were aerospace engineers. I found
that it was best for me to follow an educational path that allowed me
to study a variety of topics, but would provide several options after
graduation, including working as an engineer, attending medical school
or another type of graduate school. That way, I would have the flexibility
to change my mind, which I am prone to do!
Even before I started kindergarten, I remember my father trying to teach
me math by splitting a pie into pieces. And I recall him trying to teach
me each about each type of bird that flew into our yard and what type
of tree they landed in. Although, I never thought these instances had
any influence on me at such a young age, now I feel that the attention
my family gave me while I was growing up developed my interests in the
way things work, which is the basis of engineering and science.
I also recall a high school calculus teacher who was very tough, but
confident in her students' abilities; she instilled confidence in me and
pushed me to do more than I thought I could. I never really enjoyed math
until her class! There were also several college professors who brought
all the aspects of learning together, showing how closely all the courses
that had been separated throughout school were all inter-related and really
had practical uses.
A Houston native, I was born in 1971 and grew up in the wooded suburb
northwest of the city. I attended Texas A&M University in College Station.
When I graduated in 1993, the job market was not very good for engineers
or scientists. I took a job at a law firm in downtown Houston working
with computers, learning about business law, while waiting for a job opening
at NASA. I sent out lots of resumes and interviewed with a several different
types of companies, but kept waiting for the job I wanted. About a year
after I graduated, I was hired by the NASA contractor Lockheed Martin
at the Johnson Space Center.
I live in Clear Lake, only a few minutes from where I work. Luckily,
a lot of my friends from college are living in this area, too. Besides
spending time with my friends, I enjoy being outdoors as much as possible.
My favorite activities are hiking, studying wildlife and the environment,
riding horses, and canoeing and rafting rivers. At home, I enjoy reading,
watching movies and listening to music.
Likes/Dislikes About Career
I like working for NASA and learning about spaceflight and the ways in
which the space environment affects living things. I really believe that
technical advances, like those that originate from the space program,
are beneficial to the Earth and humankind. I like the variety of work
which I am able to participate in on a daily basis. Surprisingly, I have
come to enjoy working on computers and developing information for use
on the Internet (I hated computers just a few years ago!). I also enjoy
working with so many talented people and learning from them.
I really have no strong dislikes about my career, but I do miss some
activities which I used to enjoy more frequently. I used to draw and paint
illustrations for magazines in high school and college, and I miss creating
artwork. I also miss having time to play music and be part of a string
orchestra. Engineering does have creative outlets, though. I have the
opportunity to design and create new ideas and products every day. It's
just a different way of being creative!
My Future Plans and Goals
Even though I have worked here two years, I am still learning so much
in my current job that I have not yet made solid plans for the future.
I know that I would like to return to school to pursue a graduate degree,
but I am not sure what type of degree or when I will start.
I have learned that it's best to explore all your options and try a lot
of different things, and most importantly - never stop learning! Find
out what really interests you by studying a broad variety of topics in
school and interacting with many types of people. When you find a career
choice that is interesting, talk to people working in that field and read
as much as you can about it. Try to get jobs, or even volunteer, in fields
that interest you. And if you find out that it's not what you want to
do, keep searching. Hard work, perseverance and initiative are the keys