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Meet Judy Foss Van Zante

a picture of Judy Van Zante

Aerospace Engineer
Icing Branch, NASA Glenn Research Center

WhoI Am
I wear several hats: Researcher and Project Manager; I have also played Flight Test Engineer.

Research: …Have you noticed that most of your education has involved answering ques-tions? Who gets to decide which questions need to be asked? If you stick with a subject long enough – say, to get your Ph.D. – you become the Expert; you decide which questions are im-portant. Then you get to figure out how to an-swer them. For example, in my job, I might think the world would be better off if I find a way to detect when ice growth on an airplane’s wing is about to affect the airplane’s handling qualities. What do I need to know to design a system that will detect this condition? Can I make it fit to the existing system?

Education & Training Manager: I make sure the information we discover and gather about aircraft in-flight icing makes it to the pilots who might encounter the stuff. Like, how to recover if the aircraft unexpectedly rolls over or pitches nose down.

Flight Test Engineer: for the NASA/FAA Tailplane Icing Program, I got to fly on NASA’s icing research aircraft. We put artificial ice on the horizontal tailplane and approached tailplane stall conditions. One of my jobs was to call off tuft rows that indicated how large the separation bubble was. After the flight tests, I analyzed the data we collected. Some of my results appear in an FAA Advisory Circular. My work directly impacts the way the FAA certifies aircraft to prevent ice-contaminated tailplane stall.

Areas of Expertise: My Ph.D. work was in Fluid Mechanics – Turbulent Shear Flows. I learned Aerodynamics on the job. I am also applying educational theories I absorbed from my family of educators.

Interest and Abilities: Many types of people are involved in the field of aircraft icing – -Scientists and Engineers work to understand how and why the ice grows the way it does. We investigate this on an actual aircraft in flight, an icing research tunnel and a computer.

-Meteorologist work to understand how to better forecast icing conditions.

-Technicians, mechanical and electrical, put things together so the in-flight and tunnel ex-periments can happen.

-Photographers and other scientific imaging experts capture information for analysis.

- Everyone uses a computer.

Suggested subjects to study in school:

Math & Science (Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Calculus, Chemistry & Physics)

Shop, wood or metal – hands-on experience for how things actually work

Drafting/Graphics – to be able to explain what you mean pictorially

Writing & Grammar – so you can communi-cate all your wonderful ideas and have people pay attention; I really wish I had paid attention to this in high school.

Any class that helps you learn how to think logically and be creative.

Education and Training Needed:
If you want to call the shots, stay in school and get you Ph.D. in an Engineering field, Me-chanical, Aerospace or Electrical. (B.S. + ~4 yrs)

If you don’t want to stay in school that long, get a B.S. (4 yrs of college) and take orders from the Ph.D. until you get enough experience to call your own shots.

If you really like the hands-on without the book & brain work, become a technician. Good technicians are invaluable to the success of any experimental project.

Additional Resources:
http://.icebox.grc.nasa.gov - NASA Glenn Icing Branch Web Site (Researchers) http://www.lerc.nasa.gov/WWW/IRT/ - NASA Glenn Icing Research Tunnel (Facility) http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/ - Educational Resources
http://adds.awc-kc.noaa.gov/projects/adds/ - Check the weather before you fly

What can I do right now?

Stay curious about why things happen.

Ask Questions – what, when, where, why & how


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