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Laura IselerMeet: Laura Iseler

Aerospace Engineer

What is your area of expertise?
Rotorcraft research and wind tunnel testing.

What do you do?
I provide information about what the rotorcraft division does to the public through newspaper and magazine articles, television spots, air show booths and so on. I educate kids of all ages about the special capabilities of helicopters and how NASA is working to improve them further. I also propose and justify rotorcraft research to NASA headquarters.

How did you first become interested in this profession?
I’ve always been fascinated by flying machines, especially those that were a bit unconventional. I always hoped to go into aeronautics but pursued a degree in mechanical engineering thinking it would be more practical. When I toured Stanford as a possible graduate school, my assigned advisor arranged a tour of NASA as well, which introduced me to the wonderful world of helicopters, and I never looked back.

What helped prepare you for this job?
My engineering education and my internships helped me to become an engineer. My experience as an aerospace engineer helped me to become a communications specialist for rotorcraft.

Who were your role models or inspirations?
My dad was a big inspiration. He helped me build a wind tunnel in the 8th grade and seemed to know everything about everything. I also loved cool pictures of funky flying vehicles in scientific magazines, especially the SR-71 Blackbird and all the neat stuff that NASA researchers worked on.

What is your education and training?
Bachelor of Arts in Engineering Science & Bachelor of Engineering at Dartmouth College
Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University

Describe your career path?
2 summers as an intern at Aerospatiale Advanced Projects in Toulouse, France
5 months as a design engineer of automotive clusters at Ford Automotive in Dearborn, MI
13 years as an aerospace engineer in the Rotorcraft Division, NASA Ames Research Center
1 year as a manager of the Safe All-Weather Flight Operations for Rotorcraft (SAFOR) – NASA Ames
1 year as a communications specialist - Rotorcraft Division, NASA Ames Research Center

What do you like about your job?
I like that I still use my engineering background to share my fascination and respect for helicopters and all the good things they can accomplish with school kids and the public. I like that I get to explain all the neat helicopter research to people and get them interested.

What don't you like about your job?
There are so many things I need to do, that sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin and how to figure out what is most important. There are lots of small things that take lots of time and patience to complete.

What is your advice to anyone interested in this occupation?
Watch the Discovery channel. Learn how things work. Question people you meet about their jobs.

If you think you might want to go into science or engineering, do so and study hard. Then if you change your mind, switching to a less demanding major or career is easier than switching to a more demanding one.

What kinds of skills are important to have for this position?
It is important to have a good basic understanding of the research going on – this requires a background in math and science and experience with the research. It also helps to have good communication skills so I can explain complicated stuff to people who know nothing about helicopters.

What are your interests outside of work?
Quilting, photography, stained glass, woodworking, jewelry-making, travel, tennis, skiing, hiking, and playing with my pets – 3 cats and 1 shaggy dog.

What is your favorite scientific fact or words of advice?
Don’t be afraid to fail in your attempts to do something. The real failure is not to even try. Quite often, we learn more from our failures than our successes. Then when we finally do succeed, it is all the more appreciated for being hard won.

 

 
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