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Meet: Jason R. Brown

a photo of Jason

Senior System Safety Engineer
NASA Ames Research Center

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Who I Am
I perform Hazard Analyses and Risk Assessment Studies on wind tunnel research projects and facility modifications, additions and expansions. I identify appropriate controls and countermeasures that will either eliminate the hazards or reduce the probability of damage to facilities, injury to personnel or harm to the environment. For the Wright Flyer, I am evaluating the safety issues associated with the Variable Frequency Power used to drive the model's motor and also helping Jim Barnes to evaluate the Wright Flyer itself.

My Career Path
I knew I wanted to be an engineer when I was in the eighth grade, so I took all the math, science and drafting classes I could in High School. I went to the University of California at Berkeley and studied mechanical engineering and materials science/ metallurgy , finally deciding to concentrate on the materials science. One of the courses I took involved studying how and why materials fail. This got me interested in evaluating failures of equipment and systems in general and lead to my job as a system safety engineer. In system safety, rather than waiting for equipment to fail, we try to predict what may go wrong, sometimes before the equipment even exists. Based on these predictions, we then suggest design changes or other safety controls that will eliminate or control these hazards.

I started at NASA-Ames in 1988, first working on Space Shuttle Payloads for studying Life Science. I evaluated hazards on hardware that flew on three Shuttle missions. I then became involved in evaluating hazards associated with major modifications and upgrades to the Unitary Wind Tunnel. In 1995 I became the Safety and Quality Assurance manager for the NFAC 40x80 Wind Tunnel acoustic modification. I was responsible for making sure the hazards in the new design were controlled and also evaluating the construction area for day-to-day safety concerns. I am currently involved with hazard evaluation of tests and facility changes in all of the Code FO facilities.

Why I like my Job
The best part about my job is the variety of things and technologies I am able to get involved with. One day it can be talking with test engineers on the aerodynamics of flutter on a wing, the next day it could involve evaluating the safety of very high voltage switching equipment and motors. Every day is different.

Because of all the things I can get involved in, it can sometimes be hard to keep track of everything that is going on. This is one of the challenges of my job, but I still enjoy it very much.

As a Child
When I was young, I always enjoyed building model airplanes. I also loved to draw designs of spaceships and model airplanes to build. I read a lot of science fiction and anything I could get my hands on about America's space program and rockets. My dad was a watchmaker and jeweler, so I was exposed to precision machines and metalworking since the beginning.

Since in this type of work you never know what knowledge you may need to do your job from day to day, always be prepared to learn! Also, have a plan, but don't be surprised if something you learned years ago, and never thought you would need to know, will prove to be invaluable for solving a problem. If someone had told me in the eighth grade that one day I would be working at the world's largest wind tunnel on rotorcraft and aircraft models and the Wright Flyer, I wouldn't have believed them. Take a wide variety of subjects in High School and College, and try out a number of things to see what you really like. Where you end up will undoubtedly surprise you.

Early Influences
My parents instilled in me the importance of learning all that I could. I had a drafting teacher in High School that taught philosophy while also teaching how to draw. Finally, I had a Materials Science professor in College (the one that taught the course on how and why materials fail) that really showed me the importance of doing something that you love to do and get paid to do it.

Future Goals
I want to continue to expand my knowledge and understanding of how things work so my ability to adapt to any changes will be increased.

My wife Mary and I spend our spare time herding our seven cats. (I have always heard that herding cats is impossible. It is quite easy, once you open a can of cat food...) We also love to plan improvements to our home, and I enjoy woodworking and working on computers.

Archived QuestChats with Jason Brown

Credits and Contacts


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