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Neurolab Online banner

Meet: David Liskowsky

Program Scientist at NASA Headquarters and
Neurolab Special Projects Scientist

photo of david liskowsky

What I do:

At NASA heaquarters we help manage the science research programs that NASA does in the Life Sciences division. That means that we manage both the research that NASA does on the ground (because we give money to people who are at universities to do experiments) and we also manage the research that NASA does in space on the space shuttle and other types of space vehicles.

What it means to manage science: we get to pick the experiments that get done. We have what's called the peer review process where people send us their ideas and proposals and then we have other scientists judge them and tell us which are the best ones we should be doing and that's how we select which experiments get done.

Another part of our job is called outreach: letting people know about the work that we do and how it's important to them. That includes Congress, because they're the ones that pay the bills.

For Neurolab I've been doing a mixture of those things: I assist in managing the mission. My specific job has a lot to do with the outreach activities letting people (like the public, Congress or other scientists) know about the mission and what science is going to be done on the mission.

My Career Journey

I've always been interested in the space program. Like a lot of other people, I think it's one of the most exciting things that this country does. I've only been with NASA a short time, this is my fifth year.

Before that I was a scientist in a laboratory. I used to do research, and I was a professor at a university. About 10 years ago I left that job to come to Washington to work at another job. Then about five years ago there was an opportunity to come over to NASA. My training is in neuroscience, so when I heard about the Neurolab mission, I was really interested. I had the opportunity to talk with some of the people here at NASA, and I was able to come on at the start of the planning for the Neurolab mission. I've been able to use my neuroscience training in helping to do some of the management on that mission. Now I do a lot of other jobs here at headquarters also.

Preparation for Career

As a child I was always interested in science, and I used to play around with chemistry sets and microscopes my parents bought me. I used to try to build bombs in my basement and things like that. I always knew that when I grew up I wanted to do something related to science, particularly biology, the science I was most interested in.

My curiosity factor has always been high. I have always been interested and curious about living things and how they work, like how our bodies work, etc. I would get books out of the library about science. As a kid I used to read books that told you all about things like "What's an amphibian?" or "What's the solar system about?"

In terms of my interest in the space program, I grew up during the early days of the space program, during Mercury, Gemini,and Apollo. It caught everyone's imagination, especially mine since growing up is when you're most impressionable. So the space program has always been something that I was interested in and excited about.

Likes/Dislikes about career

My favorite part of the job is doing the stuff related to space flight - the actual managing of the science that we do on missions and finding out the results of the experiments that we do in space. That's the most exciting thing, because it's directly related to going into space. Any work directly related to flight, like the Neurolab mission, and any other missions that we're working on; making sure that the science we do is done correctly - that's the most exciting part of the job for me!

Sometimes it's a lot of hard work. Many times when you try to do your job there are a lot of other factors that have to be taken into consideration. Sometimes you just want to do the science, but there are other things, beyond just doing the science-and getting it done, that have to be dealt with.

Advice

If there's a career that you're interested in, read as much as you can about it, and don't be afraid to take chances. If it's something you're really interested in, do whatever you think you need to do in order to prepare yourself to be successful.

I've had a number of different jobs and that's been interesting. Your working career doesn't necessarily have to be just one job. The job can change and you might use the same information in different types of jobs. You shouldn't be afraid of that; sometimes that's fun because you get to do different things. It's not like you decide to be a doctor, you immediately become a doctor and then you're a doctor for the rest of your life. Your career can change in a given area and there are a lot of different things you can do with your education.

One of the things that has always helped me the most, and will help everyone no matter what they do, doesn't have anything to do with science: It's learning to how to speak and write English well. When I was in high school I had the same English teacher for two years and he insisted that every weekend we write a composition about something. I used to hate it, because every weekend I had to write a 600-word composition. In retrospect, it was probably one of the most important experiences I ever had: how to write correctly (though I'm still not excellent at it). Being able to communicate is one of the most important things you can do, whether you want to be a scientist, or a lawyer, a businessman or whatever.

Personal Information

I like sports; especially golf, skiing and racquet ball. I play saxophone in a community band, which is a lot of fun. I also like photography and traveling, and I still do a lot of reading.


 
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