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Meet: Jeff Lusardi

Aerospace Engineer

What is your area of expertise?
Controls and Dynamics.

What do you do?
I work to make helicopters easier to fly in bad weather. I am working to develop a simulated turbulence model for helicopters that make the helicopter respond as if it were flying in atmospheric turbulence on a calm day. When the model is complete, it will help control system engineers design improved control systems that make the helicopter easier for the pilot to control in real turbulence.

How did you first become interested in this profession?
I enjoyed flying and working on helicopters, and math and science were my favorite subjects in school. When I was applying to graduate schools, the opportunity to work at Ames and conduct research on helicopters for my dissertation was a perfect fit for me.

What helped prepare you for this job?
My math and science background along with my experience flying and working on helicopters provided the foundation for this job. My natural curiosity of how things work which piques my interest in problems, and my tenacious streak, which makes me stick with it until I have the answer.

Who were your role models or inspirations?
I have always admired Albert Einstein for his intellect and for being able to think outside the box and solve difficult problems. Also my wife Dianne who encouraged me and provided the support system I needed to go back to school.

What is your education and training?
B.S in Mechanical Engineering, Portland State University
M.S. in Mechanical Engineering, Portland State University
Currently working on a Ph.D. in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, University of California, Davis (graduation June, 2004)

Describe your career path?
Thirteen years as a self employed Machinist in Hillsboro Oregon
Two years as a Helicopter Flight Instructor in Hillsboro Oregon
Three years as an Aerospace Engineer at NASA Ames

What do you like about your job?
Even though my research topic is in turbulence modeling for helicopters, I get to work on a variety of different problems. I get to travel for my job, sometimes even to Europe to consult with engineers from other countries that are working on the same problem that I am working on. I also get to ride in back of the research helicopter and run the computer that collects data for research projects and I get to fly the helicopter simulators here at Ames.

What don't you like about your job?
There is a lot of paperwork that needs to be done for this job, reports to write, presentations to make and contracts to oversee, which is not nearly as fun as working on research.

What is your advice to anyone interested in this occupation?
Find your field of interest and love what you do. Work hard and do not give up or settle for mediocre results. Build your math, science and computer programming background because these are the tools that you will need to succeed. Even though it is not easy (for many engineers), work on your presentation and communication skills. Engineers must be able to communicate their findings to others.

What kinds of skills are important to have for this position?
A strong math and engineering background along with an understanding of how helicopters work and how pilots fly them is important for this job. The ability to "think outside the box" is important for solving engineering problems, and to make sure I have the right answer, I usually try to solve problems using at least two different approaches. Good communication skills and the ability to be a team player are also very important skills for this position.

What are your interests outside of work?
I like to fly and instruct in helicopters when I can. I enjoy projects like building computers and building and flying remote control helicopters. I like to learn new and innovative things, and I especially like to travel with my wife.

What is your favorite scientific fact or words of advice?
"Its not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer." Albert Einstein.



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