Meet: Gloria Yamauchi
Who I Am
My job title is Aerospace Engineer. I conduct research in rotor aerodynamics
and acoustics. The objectives of my work are to understand the flow environment
of rotor blades which in turn help me understand why rotors perform the
way they do and why they make so much noise.
A rotor blade is sort of like a skinny, twisted wing
that rotates very fast. As a result of rotation, the wake from a rotor
blade looks like a Slinky, which is very different and much more complicated
than the wake from a regular airplane wing. Understanding how the rotor
wake is formed and how the wake interacts with other rotor blades or parts
of the helicopter is a very complicated problem.
To study the rotor wake, I sometimes run large computer
programs which simulate the air flow around the blades. I also participate
in wind tunnel and flight tests where the rotor loads and noise are measured.
By studying computational results and experimental measurements, I try
to determine what is happening in the flow field and whether the rotor
noise can be reduced and performance improved through design changes or
My Career Path
When I was in high school, I decided I wanted to work for NASA and become
an astronaut. After graduating from college with a BS in Mechanical Engineering,
I got a job at NASA Ames Research Center. I was assigned to a group doing
research in helicopters. At the time, I thought I would stay with the
helicopter group for a few years and then transfer to an organization
within NASA that did space-related research. Well, that was back in 1982,
and 16 years later I am still working on helicopters and more specifically,
Tilt rotors are vehicles that can take off vertically
and hover like a helicopter and, by tilting their rotors forward like
a propeller, fly like an airplane. Since rotorcraft (helicopters, tilt
rotors) research is multi-disciplinary, I required additional classes
in math, dynamics, aerodynamics, and structures. I went to school part
time at Stanford while working at Ames and earned my M.S. and eventually
my Ph.D. Rotorcraft research turned out to be very challenging for me,
and I am still learning.
Why I Like My Job
Working at NASA Ames can be very exciting because there is so much going
on around the center. There are many different people doing different
types of research using world-class facilities. The opportunity to learn
and improve your skills is always available.
As a Child
I can't think of anything specifically that I did as a kid that prepared
me for the work I do now. I've always loved Star Trek and other sci-fi
TV shows, and I often envisioned myself traveling around in outer space,
which motivated me to work for NASA.
If you think you want to become an aerospace engineer, I suggest taking
lots of math classes. Classes in physics, computer science, dynamics and
aerodynamics are also very important. Don't let these classes intimidate
you Ð if you study hard and do your best, you will succeed. Remember:
a good engineer doesn't give up when faced with a difficult problem!
I think having a mentor or someone I could talk to
about different career choices would have helped me a lot when I was growing
up. I did not know what I wanted to do until late in high school, and
I was not aware of the variety of careers that were available. If you
have the opportunity, I highly recommend getting a mentor.
I was born and raised in Sacramento, California. After finishing high
school, I went to college at Cornell University in upstate New York. This
was a very big change for me since I did not know anybody in New York,
and the weather was so different than in Sacramento. Over the next four
years, I met a lot of nice people and made some very good friends. I returned
to California after college and started working at Ames in the summer
of 1982. I like playing golf and basketball. I also enjoy hiking, surf
fishing, and fly fishing very much. I have been happily married since
1988, and we have an Airedale (large terrier) named Hobbes. Hobbes is
very cute and energetic.