Meet: Dave Korsmeyer
Computational Sciences, Ames Research Center
Who am I
I am in the Computational Sciences Division. I run a technical group called
Variational Design. I also hold another title: I am a Level 2 Program
Manager for the Aeronautics Information Technology Base Program which
supports the Aeronautics side of NASA. As a group leader I lead a team
of technical folks to develop advanced information technologies and systems.
We find an area at NASA that needs some help and we develop systems; that
includes the hardware or the software, or sometimes both, to assist in
getting the job done. For example, we worked on near-real-time remote
access to wind tunnel data (Project DARWIN, Distributed Remote Aeronautics
My responsibility as project manager within the group
is to define the problems and break them into component pieces, to assign
activities and set milestones for these activities (like two weeks from
now we need this little widget done) and to assign resources to the activities
(I might tell a team member you have to work on this half time.) I also
might identify if we need new equipment or if we need to hire someone
new. This is what I do for several different projects.
In my Level 2 Program Manager job I am looking at
problems at a higher level. There I am concerned with the idea that there
might be researchers throughout NASA working on similar ideas, and I am
concerned with coordinating the different projects to see that they work
together and share information. An example of this is that I was working
on the remote access to wind tunnel data project here at Ames, and there
were also people working on this project at Lewis and Langley. Or trying
to couple a computational fluid dynamics project that would fit together
with the wind tunnel information project - that's Program Management.
My Career Journey
I am an aerospace engineer. I have a bachelor's, a master's, and a Ph.D.
in aerospace engineering. My Ph.D. is in celestial mechanics - the math
about how objects move in space. In order to work in that area you need
to know how to use computers efficiently and how to program. I am very
interested in aeronautics and space and I like computers a lot. I came
to NASA to work on applying advanced computer systems to NASA problems
after completing my graduate degree at University of Texas at Austin.
I got my undergraduate degree at Pennsylvania State University. As a kid,
I wanted to be an astronaut, and I decided I wanted to be an engineer,
because I like to fix things. I like to solve problems, and once I got
into aerospace engineering I discovered I like to solve those problems
more than any others.
Why I Like My Job
I am in a position to make a difference in the way that people look at
the world, and in the long term how people are going to live a hundred
years from now. One way I can do this is through NASA's exploration and
research activity. Our job is to go and figure out new things. Another
way that I can do this is using the newest computer technology. I know
that anything I do will eventually become dated, but for now I get to
work on the latest technology which is stimulating and exciting. It's
like living a Nintendo game -- I get to do all the exploration/research
stuff and decide what we get to try next. Technology is changing so rapidly
we are often playing catch up. The industry is moving so fast, that the
big companies like Boeing and Microsoft are bigger than NASA now. We have
to be careful to work together with the many groups in the industry. But
NASA still has its unique focus.
As A Child
I was a Boy Scout, in band, and in sports where I learned how to do things
in teams. People think Ph.D.s work off by themselves, but I still work
in teams. I was a voracious reader, especially science fiction stories,
and I used to do model rocketry. I was very interested in fixing things,
so I used to repair household appliances and equipment all the time. I
liked computers a lot and learned how to use them. I didn't know how to
fix things always but I wanted to understand how things worked.
The key thing is to want to solve a problem or to
understand something. You don't have to be very good at it, yet. That's
the same as in research, we don't necessarily know how to solve a problem.
The point is that we keep figuring out how to do things. Perseverance,
or keeping at it, is the quality that's needed for research and engineering.
You don't have to be a straight A student (I wasn't), you just have to
keep going and trying.
I had a lot of good teachers that encouraged exploration and doing things
differently. I also had lots of encouragement at home.
I still enjoy what I am doing very much and plan to stay here for awhile.
If another very interesting engineering challenge came along, I would
jump at that.
I read a lot and I still like fixing things at home. I have two daughters,
and my wife is also a scientist/mom. Several of the senior and influential
people that I work with are women. I would say girls and boys have equal
opportunities at NASA and in science and engineering.