Meet: James Klem
Rotorcraft Aeromechanics Research Hardware Developer
What is your area of expertise?
Custom research hardware development,
aircraft piloting, and rotorcraft aeromechanics.
What do you do?
I work with other engineers to design and build hardware to test in wind
tunnels. We all work closely with each other to figure out the best
way to get the work done. Then I sit down and use all my math, physics,
and design skills to come up with a machine to do our testing with.
We take my design into the machine shop, and using all the specialized
tools we manufacture the testing machine. After the machine is built,
we install it into the wind tunnel and do testing.
How did you first become interested in this profession?
Since I was young I have been interested in cars. I like to work on them,
fix them up, and develop a good understanding of how they work. While
I was at De Anza, I got an internship at NASA Ames and started working
on a variety of hardware. I met other students here who were pilots,
and they convinced me to take flying lessons. After that my interests
shifted to aircraft, and now I am a certified aircraft nut.
What helped prepare you for this job?
My background in cars and my interest in aircraft. Learning how to work
on cars gave me a strong mechanical background. Then learning how airplanes
fly and operate set me up for a position in the job I have now.
Who were your role models or inspirations?
All the pilots I have met through the years are definitely my role models.
Also, the researchers who are the leading experts in the rotorcraft
field throughout the world are some of the most inspirational people
I have ever met.
What is your education and training?
AS Degree in Engine Technology De Anza College, Cupertino California
AA Degree in Liberal Arts, De Anza College, Cupertino California
BS Degree in Aerospace Engineering San Jose State University, in progress
Private Pilot Certificate, Federal Aviation Administration
Describe your career path?
1 year Elgines Machine Shop
4 years Hypergravity Research Hardware Technician
3 years Rotorcraft Research Hardware Development
What do you like about your job?
I especially like learning new things. This job demands that you constantly
learn the latest in rotorcraft technology, and since I love aircraft,
and how aircraft work, this job is perfect for me.
What don't you like about your job?
I do not like being unable to solve all the problems that come up as
my team moves forward. I would like to have all the answers to all
the problems, and be able to fix anything. Fortunately I work in a
group of incredibly talented people, so if I can’t fix a problem,
one of my coworkers will.
What is your advice to anyone interested in this occupation?
Follow what you really want to do no matter how hard it seems it will
be. Be patient, work hard in school, and understand that great things
take a while to achieve. And always do things you like, not what you
think will make you a lot of money. Also, good math, physics, and mechanical
design skills are very important for this job.
What kinds of skills are important to have for this position?
Good math, physics, and mechanical design skills are very important for
What are your interests outside of work?
I like to skydive, snowboard, rock climb, mountain bike, and fly airplanes.
I play on a softball team on with my friends from middle school and
high school. I enjoy meeting new people and learning new sports from
these people. I also travel internationally to study foreign cultures.
What is your favorite scientific fact or words of advice?
The pursuit of you dreams is the definition of happiness.