Before you can make an airplane quieter, you must first
find out what part is making the most noise. At NASA Glenn we are concentrating
on two main parts of the engine that we know make a lot of noise—the
fan at the front of the engine and the jet at the back of the engine.
We are trying to understand how noise is generated and are trying to redesign
these parts to make the engine run more quietly. We do this in two ways—experimentally
Experiments are conducted here at NASA Glenn in two state-of-the
art facilities—the 9x15 Wind Tunnel( http://facilities.grc.nasa.gov/9x15/index.html
) and the Aeroacoustic Propulsion Laboratory ( http://facilities.grc.nasa.gov/aapl/
). In these experiments aerodynamic measurements are taken of the airflow
through the fans and jets with pressure and temperature probes, as well
as non-intrusive measurement systems (lasers). Acoustic measurements are
also taken microphones placed around the test article.
We use Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) to calculate the
flow through virtual models of the fans and jets. CFD is a way that computers
are used to solve the fundamental equations of fluid motion. We also use
computer programs to calculate and the noise coming from the engine. We
then compare the calculated results (predictions) to the experimental
results. Sometimes we compare experimental results to predictions to prove
the theory is correct. Sometimes we use predictions to decide what to
How I got here
I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA as the oldest of four children. My parents
are both teachers and strongly encouraged us to get a good education.
I always got good grades in school, and English and Science were my
favorite classes. It wasn’t until the summer of my junior year
in high school that I even considered going to college to become an
engineer. I attended a one-week summer camp at St. Vincent College in
Latrobe, Pennsylvania called “Challenge”
(Hey, check it out—as of this writing
the program is still offered: http://www.stvincent.edu/academics/special/challenge.html
During that week a course in aviation was taught and at the end of the
course the instructor, who was also a private pilot, took us for a ride
in a small 4-seater airplane. During one flight I was even allowed to
co-pilot for a while. It was so exciting!! For the first time I really
understood how science and math could be combined to do some really
cool things. I went home from the program and I distinctly remember
telling my parents (out on our back porch) that I wanted to become an
aerospace engineer. After my parents were convinced that I was serious,
they helped me to apply to schools with programs in Mechanical and Aerospace
Engineering. I decided to attend Case Western Reserve University in
Cleveland, Ohio. My tuition was paid through a combination of scholarships,
loans, grants, and contributions from my parents and me. I participated
in the Work-Study program at CWRU that helped me earn both money and
experience—I worked in one of the labs in the Department of Mechanical
and Aerospace Engineering. I also spent one summer in college as an
engineering intern at General Motors in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
I received a Bachelor of Science degree in Fluid
and Thermal Engineering Sciences in 1990 and immediately after graduation
I was thrilled to come to work at NASA Glenn as a Test Operations Engineer.
As a Test Operations Engineer, I worked with a team of people to conduct
aerodynamic experiments on jet engine components (turbines). While I
was working full-time, I went back to Case Western Reserve University
part-time to earn my Masters Degree in Fluid and Thermal Engineering
Sciences. This time, NASA paid my tuition. Through my thesis work, I
was introduced to the field of computational fluid dynamics. After graduation
in 1998, I transferred into the Acoustics Branch.
I had a lot of encouragement as a young student that really helped to
get me where I am today. I have many people to thank for that—my
parents, family, teachers, friends and co-workers. Although I didn’t
know it at the time, one of the best things my parents did for me was
to send me to an all-girls high school. I said “send me,”
because it was definitely not my idea. None of my grade-school friends
were going there, and I was just plain mad that my pleas to attend another
co-ed school were seemingly ignored. Not soon after I started school,
though, I realized my parents made the right decision and really enjoyed
I attended St. Benedict Academy in Pittsburgh from
my freshman till my junior year in high school. The Academy closed due
to declining enrollment, and I had to transfer to North Catholic High
School for my senior year. North Catholic was co-ed, and at the time
there were more boys than girls there—it was quite a transition.
While I received an excellent education at both schools, I believe that
the time that I spent at St. Benedict was crucial to my eventual engineering
Having attended both an all-girls and a co-ed high
school I can attest to the power of peer pressure. I believe the confidence
I now have stems from the time I spent learning in an all-girls environment.
This might not be true for everyone, but it made a tremendous difference
in my life. I think I was more willing as a student to participate more
fully in my classes without the pressure to fit into any stereotypes.
You need to have confidence so that you can overcome
the obstacles that will come in your way. Obstacles come in many different
forms and at many different times—sometimes you may have trouble
in an important class, sometimes you might have trouble finding ways
to pay your way through school, sometimes you may not have anyone to
cheer you on. It is important to hang in there and try to overcome these
things in your way. The projects that we work on here at NASA are ones
that have not been solved yet. It takes confidence to try new approaches
and to convince others that, even though you aren’t 100 percent
sure if your ideas will work, that they are at least worth the try.
If everything you try works out—great, it is time to celebrate.
But more often than not, we learn most from our failures and confidence
helps us to pick ourselves up and try again when at first we don’t
Outside of work, faith and family are most important
to me. I’ve been blessed with a wonderful husband and several
young children who keep us very, very busy. I work part-time now that
I have a growing family. Keeping a balance between my work and my family
is the biggest challenge I now face. Raising our children ourselves
at home is something important to us, and my husband and I have been
fortunate to have careers that are flexible enough to allow us to arrange
our work schedules to do that. You can be an engineer and a mother,
Take time to reflect on what you like to do, what you are good at, and
try to think how these things can be combined into a career. It will
be easy to be enthusiastic about your job if you are doing things you
like to do. Take every opportunity to learn about different careers.
Work as an intern, volunteer, or co-op. As you can see from my example,
a little awareness can change your life forever. The internet can be
a great source of information. Use it to learn about careers that may
interest you. Sometimes your hobbies can give you a clue to the types
of careers you might like. I’ve enjoyed all types of arts and
crafts since ever since I was a child- crochet, painting ceramics, sewing,
and making wreathes. Through crafts, I got to learn how to put things
together, so it is no surprise to me now that engineering is so appealing.
If you are in grade school or high school and think
maybe (just maybe) you may want to be an engineer, I strongly encourage
you to take all the science and math classes in high school that you
can. You should be taking physics and calculus by your senior year so
that you will be prepared for the classes you will be required to take
in college. All the engineers I know use a computer, so it will help
to take as many classes as you can that can help you to become familiar
with programming and using various applications. Engineering is definitely
more than math, science, and computers—all of the things you learn
in school can be used at work as an engineer. Skills you learning in
English will help you to write better technical reports and give better
presentations. Classes in art or woodshop can teach creativity and develop
your hands-on skills. The fun you have playing in school sports or in
the band will help you to be good at working with others in a team.
Life is about learning, and learning doesn’t end when you graduate.
If you are a newly graduated engineer and think
that someday you may want to have a family, I encourage you to find
out as much as you can about flexible job schedules and maternity/paternity
leave policies as early as you possibly can. Some jobs are more flexible
than others. Telecommuting is one way to add flexibility to your work
schedule, but not all jobs are well suited for a telecommuting arrangement.
If you want to take off a lot of time when your child is born, you may
have to save your vacation time years in advance. A little planning
can make a big difference.
If you are a parent or teacher, please help the
children in your life recognize their own talents and to explore careers
that use these talents. There is room for everyone in the field of aeronautics
and space, just not for those who are good in math and science. People
who enjoy working with their hands could look into pursuing careers
in the trades—machinists, electronics technicians, mechanics,
and electricians are just a few jobs that are so important to the work
we do here at NASA. Others may excel at technical writing, public relations,
management, or accounting.
It has been very exciting to work at NASA. I am
honored to work with such a group of talented people here at Glenn.
It is very rewarding to be able to contribute to the research on these
challenging projects while balancing my responsibilities both here at
work and with my family at home. I think NASA is a special place that
really helps to broaden our knowledge of the wonders on this planet
and beyond, while making our lives a little better (and a little more