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Meet: Mina Cappuccio

a photo of Mina

Aerospace Engineer, High Speed Research
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California

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Who I Am
I am an aerospace engineer at NASA Ames Research Center. I work in the area of propulsion airframe integration. Propulsion Airframe Integration (PAI) is the science of installing the propulsion system or engine on an airplane. On most military aircraft the engine is embedded inside the airplane. On commercial aircraft, the engines are mounted outside of the airplane in a pod or nacelle. They are usually attached to the lower surface of the wing, but can be mounted in the tail.

I am specifically working in the area of PAI on the NASA High Speed Research (HSR) program. NASA is working with industry (Boeing and GE) to develop the technology needed to design and build a commercial high speed civil transport (HSCT). The HSCT would fly at supersonic speeds and take people from one country to another two to three times faster than a normal commercial airplane like the 747. I have been working at NASA for seven years in this area, mostly doing experiments in our wind tunnels. I evaluate the designs of an HSCT in the wind tunnel by measuring forces and pressures. I use these measurements to evaluate the designs and how the nacelles are installed on the airplane. I also work on the computer to help evaluate designs.

My Career Path
When I was in the first grade, I remember watching on TV the astronauts landing on the Moon. I think this is when I knew that I wanted a career in science. Growing up in Boston near the airport, I was always interested in airplanes. I wanted to learn how to fly them. Every time I went on an airplane, I got excited. While in school, I always excelled in math and science.

During my high school years, I had a very good math teacher. I wanted to be a math teacher like him. I talked with Mr. Durante about my future and what I should study while in college. He knew I liked airplanes and was good at math. He suggested I go into engineering. He suggested either mechanical or aerospace engineering. I started looking at different schools and narrowed my search to three: the Air Force Academy, Rennselaer Polytechnic, and the University of Massachusetts. I applied to all three. I ended up going to University of Massachusetts (UMASS) in Amherst to study mechanical engineering (ME). UMASS used to have an aerospace department but combined it with the ME department. I took a lot of math, physics, chemistry, and engineering classes.

My first job after graduating was with Boeing in Seattle. I worked in the military division designing inlets. Inlets are the part on the nacelle that is in front of the engine. I also got to learn about engines and airplane design while at Boeing. After Boeing, I decided to go back to school to get a higher degree and learn more about mechanical and aerospace engineering.

I went to Pennsylvania State University and got my master's degree. After I finished school I decided to work for NASA. Working at NASA had been a dream of mine since the first grade when I saw the astronauts landing on the Moon. My dream came true. I would love to be an astronaut, but I am very happy at what I do right now at NASA.

Why I Like My Job
I get to see and work on airplanes that you will fly in one day. I get to travel to many places in the United States. I meet many people in my field and learn new things about airplane designs.

The negative aspects of my career are that I live far away from my family, and I sometimes get frustrated when I don't know how to do something. I plan to stay in this field, but I might change over to space. I still want to be an astronaut.

When I Was A Kid
As a child I always liked to know how things work. I asked a lot of questions. I helped my dad and mom fix things around the house. I read a lot of science fiction books and I always read science magazines. Mr. Durante, my high school math teacher, influenced the career I chose for college. My parents always encouraged me to pursue the things I was interested in.

Advice
For a career in aerospace engineering, take as many math and science classes as possible. Learn how to use a computer. Find someone in the field and try to go on field trips to their work. Talk to them about their job. There are many programs out there that promote math and science.

Personal
I am single without any children. My parents, three sisters, and two brothers live in Boston. My parents were born in Italy and I was born in England. My parents, sister, and I moved to Boston in 1966. I still have family in Italy and England.

I enjoy sports: bowling, hockey, softball, and golf. I love music, especially modern rock. I go to a lot of concerts with my friends. I enjoy going to plays in San Francisco, too. I love to cook. I hope to meet someone very special and raise a family of my own some day.

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