Meet: Laura Iseler
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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.