Live From...the Stratosphere
Tom Roellig, Biography
Name: Dr. Tom Roellig
Position: Astrophysicist for NASA.
I am the leader of a small research group of scientists, engineers,
and students that build scientific equipment that can be used on telescopes
for astronomical observations. The telescopes we use are either located
at various ground-based sites in places like Arizona, California, and
Hawaii or on airborne or satellite telescopes. After we use our equipment
on these telescopes to make our observations, we analyze our data with
our computers here at NASA Ames and then publish the results in various
profess ional scientific publications.
Motivation: I was always interested in science as a child and I thought
that I would like to be either an astronomer or an oceanographer when
I grew up. I took all the math and science classes I could in order to
prepare for this. While I was in college I had the chance to work for
a summer on an oceanographic research ship - after this experience I decided
that I preferred astronomy!
My present job is generally very rewarding. I get to choose what scientific
problems I work on based on my own curiosity and I also get a good mix
of desk work, lab work, and travel. The disadvantages are the generally
high level of paperwork that the government requires and the dwindling
science budgets that have come about in the last few years.
Preparing for any sort of a career in science requires that you take
science and especially math classes. The more classes that you take in
these fields the more freedom you will have to choose what you finally
want to do. If you wait too late in your schooling to start taking these
classes you may find that it is very difficult to catch up. Of course,
you should also make sure that you continue to do things that keeps your
scientific curiosity alive - go out and collect rocks, insects, or shells,
spend some time in your backyard looking at the stars, photograph animals,
build electronic circuits - whatever interests you.
Personally, I was influenced a lot in my career choice by my father,
who is a professor of physics at a university. He never pushed me into
science, but when I showed any interest he was always able to answer my
questions. He could also check out and bring home telescopes, microscopes,
and so forth for me to use for a while.
Outside of work, I spend my free time playing with my two year old son
and dog, working around the house, and exercising outside. I like to bicycle,
hike, scuba dive, and ski, depending on the season. My son slows me down
in this a bit, but I can still take him along in a backpack or on a bike
seat most of the time.