Where are you from?
I am from Bozeman, Mont. But I now live in Pasadena, Calif.
Describe the first time you made a personal connection with outer space.
I first got interested in space when my science teacher in seventh grade did a unit on the space program and NASA. We followed all of the space shuttle missions, and we even wrote a proposal for an experiment to go into space (I think we proposed growing potatoes onboard the space shuttle). I really started to follow NASA's space program after that.
How did you end up working in the space program?
|"If you truly have a passion for|
space exploration, then go for it.
Nothing should stand in your way."
While following NASA and its missions, I learned about the Viking
landers that went to Mars
in the 1970s. I decided that I wanted to build stuff to go to Mars. My high school math teacher told me that if that was my dream, I should be a mechanical engineer.
Later, when I was a junior in college, majoring in mechanical engineering, I was earning extra money by waiting tables at a Perkins restaurant. Every day a particular couple would come in to the restaurant and I would wait on them and chat with them. One day the wife looked at me and told me that I really needed to do something more than wait tables. I laughed and told her that I was majoring in mechanical engineering, and that my dream was to work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). She then told me her brother had just retired from there and was moving to Bozeman.
A few weeks later, she brought her brother in to the restaurant. I gave him my resume, and we talked for a bit. About a week later I was interviewing for a mechanical engineering internship at JPL!
Who inspired you?
My high school math teacher, Mr. George Kent. He taught me to never be afraid to go after what you want. He taught me that your dreams are always achievable and that you can do anything if you work hard enough. He also taught me to believe in myself. I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for him.
What is a Mobility Engineer?
A mobility engineer works on the elements of a vehicle that make it move: the wheels, the suspension and the differential. These elements are similar to the functions you have in your car, except they have to work in extreme temperatures, in a near vacuum atmosphere and without a mechanic to fix them if something goes wrong! We call these cars rovers.
Tell us about a favorite moment so far in your career.
One of the best times I've had in my career was really pretty recent. My team delivered the mobility system for the next Mars rover. (This rover is named Curiosity.) After delivery, I got to go into the clean room and help the team install the mobility system onto the rover. Watching all of our hard work come together was truly a great experience.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to take the same career path as you?
Love what you do. It is a hard road to get an engineering degree, but anyone can do it -- you just have to love it so you won't mind all the hard work. If you truly have a passion for space exploration, then go for it. Nothing should stand in your way.
What do you do for fun?
Lately, I spend as much time as possible with my son. He is three months old and the coolest little guy in the world. Everyday he is a new adventure for me, and I love to just watch him learn about this great big world of ours.
If you were talking to a student interested in science and math or engineering, what advice would you give them?
Science and engineering offer a huge spectrum of careers -- don't worry about finding something cool. Just take classes and learn -- the right career will become obvious.
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Last Updated: 3 January 2013
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