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Aerospace Team Online

ATO#129 Becoming an Engineer, April 20, 2001

Part 1: Upcoming Chats
Part 2: New Contest
Part 3: Contest Ends
Part 4: Becoming an Engineer



Enter these chats from the Common Events page http://quest.nasa.gov/common/events/ Aerospace Team

Online Chat with Carolyn Mercer Tuesday,
April 24, 2001, 10 AM Pacific - 1 PM Eastern

Chat with Carolyn Mercer. Carolyn invents new ways to use lasers and light to measure aerodynamic properties like gas temperature and density. Read her bio at: http://quest.nasa.gov/aero/team/mercer.html

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Take your Daughter to Work Day Events
See the whole list of events planned for April 26, 2001 http://quest.nasa.gov/women/TODTWD01/schedule.html

Interactive WebCast with Astronaut Susan Helms,
Thursday April 26, 2001 11 PM Pacific - 2 PM Eastern

Susan Helms is the first female to live on the International Space Station. Read her bio at http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/helms.html

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Interactive Chat with Fanny Zuniga, Thursday April 26, 2001 12 PM Pacific

Fanny Zuniga is an aerospace engineer who has done research in the Vertical Motion Simulator.
Read Fanny's bio at http://quest.nasa.gov/aero/team/zuniga.html

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QuestForum Thursday April 26, 2001

Ask Karen Gundy Burlett questions in the forum. The Forum will be open from 7:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. PDT / 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. CDT / 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. EDT. Read her bio at http://quest.nasa.gov/women/bios/kgb.html

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Aerospace Team Online Chat with Mary Reveley
April 30, 2001, 10 AM Pacific - 1 PM Eastern

Chat with Mary Reveley. Mary adds and subtracts the costs and benefits of implementing new propulsion and aviation technologies. Read her bio at: http://quest.nasa.gov/aero/team/reveley.html



Planetary Flight Gameboard: April 27 - May 18, 2001

Contest Description: This contest invites students to design a game board about Planetary Flight. Design and create a game using information that you have learned from the Planetary Flight Web Site.

The game should include a game board and directions for how to play the game. Use your imagination and be creative!

For more information visit: http://quest.nasa.gov/aero/planetary/contest.html



Planetary Flight Book Jacket: March 26 to April 26, 2001
Grades 5-8

Contest Description: This contest invites students to create a book jacket for a novel about planetary flight. The book jacket should include the title, author, and illustration on the cover. The binding should include the title of your story and the author's name. The back of the jacket should include a brief description about the characters, setting, and plot of the story.

For more information visit: http://quest.nasa.gov/aero/planetary/contest.html

[Editor's Note: Carolyn Mercer is an aerospace research engineer. Read her bio at http://quest.nasa.gov/aero/team/mercer.html


by Carolyn Mercer


I am an aerospace engineer and an optical engineer. I have a Bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering and a PhD in optical science, and I've spent most of my career inventing new ways to use lasers and light to measure aerodynamic properties like gas temperature and density. This is important because new aerospace designs need to be tested to make sure they'll work, and with lasers we can measure flows without disrupting them.

I must admit I never planned very far in advance for my career. In high school my favorite subject was Math, and I liked English and Current Events very much too. I thought I might become a lawyer or mathematician, but was attracted to engineering by winning scholarship money.

I thought I'd just give it a try because I didn't really understand what engineering was, and figured I'd switch to something else if it got boring.

Well, it never got boring and here I am, still in engineering! I got my job at NASA by first working there as a summer student. I got that summer student slot by listing "optics" as one of my interests. The only reason I listed optics is because I'd read a book about holography in the library the week before I filled out the application form, and thought holography sounded pretty fun. NASA was looking for optical people then, and there weren't many people trained in optics then (there still aren't) so I got very lucky.

I did a good job as a student worker and had good grades, so I was hired as a permanent employee after graduating with my Bachelor of Science degree. I worked for a year then went back to night school for my Master's.

I didn't really want to go back to school, but there seemed to be so much to learn and there was a good program locally. That turned out to be a really good idea, because it made it easier to get my Doctoral degree. I went away to school for a year to study for that, then did my research back at NASA.

Regardless of what you may have heard, getting a Doctoral degree is a lot of fun. At least it was for me, because I really liked the subject matter and I found a department in a school that suited me very well. I never really considered management either, until my boss retired and recommended me as his replacement. I figured I'd try this too, and, so far, so good!



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