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Meet: Liz Bauer

Hardware Engineer
Johnson Space Center

photo of liz bauer

My Journals

Who I am:

I am a Hardware Engineer for NASA, at the Johnson Space Center (JSC). Hardware is anything physical you can touch or hold in your hands. I work on several projects - for Neurolab and the International Space Station. I tutor at elementary schools helping kids learn to read better. Last year, I tutored kids in math. I love sports of any kind, especially tennis, soccer, and biking. I play tennis in local tournaments and help coach a soccer team.

What I do:

For the Neurolab Project, I am a hardware engineer for SIR which stands for Standard Interface Rack. SIR is a system for integrating hardware. It is a technology we use to take Earth things to space. The rack contains mechanical parts, called a liner, used to slide drawers in and out, much like a file cabinet. Drawers are used to contain or repackage things and make them flight ready. For example, we can't take computers to space in the same outer packages or cases we use on Earth because some pieces may float out or the vibration from launch would destroy them. So, we take all the computer's guts from the central processing unit (its brain) and repackage it in one of these drawers.

On the rack side, the SIR also provides power and data for the drawers through cables. Power for a drawer comes from a connector in the rack, just like a wall outlet at your house. Data cables serve many purposes, but the main one is for communication. This is so drawers can "talk" to each other, the Space Station, and Earth. For the computer drawer mentioned above, parts are wired to connectors in the drawer. When you slide the drawer into the rack, it connects to cables already in the rack.

In general, my job is to manage, or oversee, the contractors doing the SIR work for 4 racks in the Spacelab. I did modify some storage drawers - drawers like the ones above that are used for storing small hardware. I also had to make sure the liners were designed and built.

Likes/Dislikes about career

The thing I like best about my job is the interaction with all the people I work with to get the job done. Because I work in integration, I work with people from other organizations within JSC, other NASA centers, and other countries. The thing I like least about my job is the pure bureaucracy - the paperwork, forms, and poor communication on project requirements (what we need to know to make sure the rack and drawers work properly).

Preparation for Career

In junior high school, I wanted to be an architect or work in the field of biology - like swimming with whales or working with dolphins. During the summers in high school, I participated in the Summer Science Research Assistantship Program. I worked three summers doing cancer research. We studied the brain (in dogs) and the liver (in rats). I did research, helped with the experiments, and wrote up my results. I knew that I liked science but did not really know what I wanted to do.

When I went to college at Texas A&M University, I got my Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. My dad is an aerospace engineer and my sister is a chemical engineer, so you could say it was in my blood to be an engineer. Plus, I wanted to have a good paying job after graduation without needing another degree. Since I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do, I chose mechanical engineering because it has a broad range of applications. So after graduation, I would have more job choices.

While I was at Texas A&M, I began co-oping for NASA in the spring of my sophomore year. Co-oping stands for cooperative education and is a program between schools and businesses. I was able to go to school, take a break for a semester and work, go back to school, and so on. I found co-oping very useful, as it gave me a rest from classes and studying, a chance for real work experience, and $$money$$. I started in the Propulsion and Power Division doing thermodynamic calculations and auto-cad drawings. For me, it was too much number crunching and sitting at a computer. I wanted to have more people interaction - to work on teams. Since NASA has many co-ops and group activities, I knew someone who was co-oping in an area that made biomedical hardware. Given my past experience in research and interest in science, I knew this would be a good place for me. So the next fall and two summer tours, I co-oped in the Life Sciences Project Division. This is where I work now, but it is called the Biomedical Hardware Development and Engineering Office. Co-oping, in general, was the most influential experience of my life. I highly recommend participating in any program that lets you take classes and work in a business.


I am very interested in biomedical engineering. I find it fascinating. For example, some researchers think the material used to make Shuttle ceramic tiles can be used as a replacement for human bone. I would like to work on a master's degree, although I haven't decided on an MBA or a technical degree.


Moving a lot while growing up, I had to adapt and "go with the flow." I learned the value of the people I met over the years and to appreciate the outdoors. Between family and friends, I feel like I have a United States support group. Do your best in school and try to enjoy it. Expand your mind in the subjects you like, and don't make the ones you don't like torture. You don't have to be a math or science wiz, as it takes all kinds of people to keep NASA going. For example, NASA needs people who like PE to study how astronaut's muscles work in space or people who like English to write technical or scientific papers. Find out what you like to do and see how you might make that a career. For example, if you like soccer - you can play the game; coach; design cleats, shoe laces, shoes, or uniforms; work at a recreation center; or coordinate community soccer events, even the World Cup. There are all kinds of ways to make something you like into a career and get paid. Someone is not just going to hand it to you, so you must be creative and highly motivated to attain your goals. Go for it!!

Personal Information

I was born in Stillwater, Minnesota. My dad was in the Air Force, so we moved a lot. I grew up in North Carolina; Edwards Air Force Base, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Home is wherever I am, but my heart is in Albuquerque which is where I went to high school. Now I live in the Clear Lake area, a suburb of Houston, Texas. I'm not married and have no kids or pets. Actually, I never had any pets growing up. When I was in 4th and 5th grade, we lived in Las Vegas and my dad was overseas in the Philippines for two years. My mom was a tennis teacher at a hotel. My sister and I worked at the tennis Pro Shop, reserving courts, selling tennis balls and clothing, and picking up after lessons. It made me feel so adult at such a young age. We had been given a lot of responsibility and people depended on us. My friends are very important to me and I love hanging out with them. I make sure we all stay in touch, as we all lead very busy lives. As a kid, I hated recreational reading, though I was a good reader at school. When I did read for fun, I read sci-fi and fantasy.

My family

I have one sister, who is two years older than me. My parents live in Albuquerque. My dad has retired from the Air Force and works as a consultant. When we get together, we enjoy eating dinner together. This is our time to do lots of talking and really communicate with each other. We also love to go hiking, river rafting, or anything outdoors.

Learn more from my chats
April 2, l998
May 19, l998


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