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Meet: Erica Wagner

Experiment Support Scientist / Microbiology Coordinator

photo of erica wagner

What I do:

I currently have two positions, or responsibilities at work. The first is that of an experiment support scientist, or ESS, for short. I work with a group of research scientists who will be sending their experiments in space on April 16th. Each scientist has a team of people to help him complete his experiment along with an ESS. I am the ESS for Dr. Tsuyoshi Shimizu, from Fukushima Medical College in Japan. Along with Dr. Shimizu and his team members, I make sure that all of his documentation, such as procedural documents, are accurate and complete for flight. I am also resonsible for making sure that he has all of the supplies needed for his experiment.

My second job is that of the Microbiologist for my division at Lockheed Martin. I am responsible for making sure that the appropriate testing for health status is done for animals used here at ARC, at JSC, and at KSC for flight. I coordinate animal orders directly with our animal vendor, and coordinate the microbiological sampling of these animals. I then work with our microbiology laboratory to make sure that the correct types of tests are done. When it comes time for flight I need to make sure that the Payload Scientist has all of the test results so that he can give the OK for the animals to be loaded into the space shuttle.

My Career Journey

Just before I graduated from UC Davis I met a women who works at NASA. She helped me meet some people who were looking for a summer intern. I worked as a volunteer the summer I graduated from college and then interviewed for the position which I have currently. The work that I had done during the summer along with my degree in biology was very helpful in getting this job. A biology backround is very important if you are going to work in the science field.

Preparation for Career

As I child I was always interested in science, especially medicine. As I grew older I did volunteer work in a hospital emergency room, and I have worked for two doctors over the years. My interest in medicine led me to getting a degree in biology which opened up the possibility of working for NASA in their science department.


I had a special mentor as I was growing up who always encouraged me to do my best. She always told me that I could accomplish anything, and it's true!

Likes/Dislikes about career

My job is very exciting because I am working on a project which will eventually be put on the shuttle which will go into space. I am able to work with scientists and astronauts on this project. I especially enjoy working with researchers all over the world and learning their cultures. I have been able to get to know my Japanese team very well, and we enjoy learning the differences that we have in social aspects and language.

We are a government institution so we are required to document most things that we do. Most of the time I get to work with my team, but there are periods when I spend eight hours a day in front of my computer creating documents. I have a lot of fun creating documents and working on the computer, but sometimes eight hours is just too long!


This job takes a lot of things. One is a good backround in science, especially in biology, but you also have to like to work with people. I work with a team of almost twenty people. We all depend on each other for information so communication is very important. Computer skills are also very helpful because of the extensive documentation required.

Personal Information

I live in an apartment in Mountain View so I am close to my work, but I usually spend my weekends in San Jose with my family. I have a wonderful younger sister named Kari who is a lot fun and one of my best friends. Kari takes care of my black and white cat named Maddie. Maddie loves to eat and loves to 'talk' to people. I also have a fish names "Shwish".

My mom, Candy, works at an elementary school with children, and my dad, Robert, has his own business as a food broker. My boyfriend Mark and I like to work out at the gym, and when the weather is nice we love to Rollerblade. I also enjoy sewing and reading. I am planning on going back to school and getting my masters in public health in the next year or so.


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