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Meet Naseem Saiyed

Photocomposite showing Naseem Saiyed (left), HSCT artist concept (center), X-33 artist concept (right),

left, Naseem Saiyed—center,and right, artist's
conceptions respectively of High Speed Civil Transport and X-33

Aerospace Engineer

Who am I and what do I do
I am an engineer working at NASA Headquarters in the Office of Aero-Space Technology. My current assignment as the Program Implementation Manager for Applied Research is to develop and demonstrate new technologies for regular airplanes and for experimental airplanes. Regular airplanes are the big passenger jets and experimental airplanes are the super-fast, Mach 10+, planes for reaching Low-Earth Orbit (LEO). The results of my work and that of others at NASA are helping increase aircraft safety, reduce aircraft noise and emissions as well as flight delays, and in general making access to space possible. I also support the development of NASA's policy on Space Commerce in the Office of Space Flight, which will provide guidelines for increasing commercialization of space. This will one day make space travel possible for the public.

Photo of Naseem Saiyed as a child in 1968 with toy airplaneAs a child
I have had a love of airplanes since very young. I still remember the first time I saw a real airplane far above my head and heard its roar during recess in the first grade—I shrieked with joy. This early experience marked the beginning of my passion for aircraft. It helped me realize that my toy airplane represented a real and much larger object! My passion for flying machines grew continuously. I made and tossed paper airplanes everywhere. I made play airplanes out of everything (books, pens, and irons). I even recall using my hand, as a part of my imaginary squadron, to practice takeoffs and landings.

Karachi, Pakistan in the 1970's was hardly the economic center of the world, and my family could barely support the six of us. As a child, I was not aware of the difficulties that lay ahead, I just wanted to fly airplanes, to be free like a bird. My dream of becoming a pilot, however, was an extremely distant possibility. In the 70's my family, settled in the USA. This was the opportunity of a lifetime. My Mom always emphasized the importance of getting an education—I followed her advice and took classes in aeronautics, math, and physics. My love of airplanes grew even stronger in school.

Photo of Naseem Saiyed by experimental inletHow I got here?
I became an engineer in a round about way. I wanted to be an Air Force pilot. Because my grades were good but my eyesight was slightly less than 20/20, the recruitment officer suggested non–pilot positions within the Air Force. I found this option unacceptable. So, six months before graduating high school, I decided to become an airline pilot. I went to flight school at the Mt. Hood Community College and received a private pilot license. A year later, while accumulating flight hours toward the commercial license, I realized that I could no longer afford flying lessons—you see, I was 17 at the time and making $5/hour as a dishwasher, but paying aircraft rate of about $50/hour. I changed my goal from being an airline pilot to becoming an engineer.

I had worked hard in flight school, and received grades that were good enough to win me scholarships at the University of Portland. These scholarships reduced my tuition significantly. I made up the difference by working 20–30 hours a week as tutor, lab assistant and student engineer. I continued the momentum from flight school and took tough courses—sometimes five or six in a semester. This hard work paid off when, four years later, I was offered a position at NASA Glenn Research Center (then NASA Lewis Research Center) 3 months before graduation in 1987. I did not stop going to school after joining NASA. NASA in fact encourages its employees to continue learning. I went back to school while working full time at NASA Glenn, and received a Master of Science in Fluid and Thermal Engineering from Case Western Reserve University.

What have I done?
My work over the last 14 years has been wonderful. I have had exciting opportunities to learn and to have an impact on many frontiers. My first job at NASA was related to space technology, specifically the Cryogenic Fluids Technology Office, as research engineer. Cryogens are gases in liquid form at very low temperatures. For example, hydrogen gas turns into liquid at –428°F. My team and I were developing a technology to demonstrate that we could transfer cryogens in LEO where gravity is nearly zero. I did experiments with liquid nitrogen and liquid hydrogen. I conducted system check-out tests for the Tank Pressure Control Experiment (TPCE) as a payload on the Space Shuttle 43 by flying it in 0–gravity trajectories on the NASA Learjet (see video inside Learjet cabin showing loss of gravity, 3.5 MB). After a few years working in the field of cryogenics, I briefly conducted studies for the safety of the combustion module and the fluids module on the International Space Station.

I then moved to aeronautics, working in the Acoustics Technology Branch. I led several experiments at the Aero–Acoustic Propulsion Lab (AAPL) to reduce the exhaust noise from the High Speed Civil Transport (a 2.2 Mach commercial airliner), from medium and long-range aircrafts, and from business jets. Once proven to work on model scale in the AAPL and elsewhere within NASA, we went on to test these noise reduction technologies on full scale engines, on engines mounted on pods, and finally on real airplanes. Click on video (2.8 MB) to view and to listen to one of our tests, where we compared the improved exhaust nozzle design on NASA's Learjet 616 to the original design (baseline). If you listen carefully, you'll notice the reduced noise levels in the improved design.

Naseem Saiyed stands in a group shot by NASA's Learjet

Last year I was selected to participate in a year long NASA Professional Development Program (the PDP). The participants in this program choose to enhance their careers by developing leadership skills in any part of NASA–hence continuing education and experience. I choose NASA HQ–where I currently work. I do not know exactly what I will be doing after the professional leadership training ends, but I know that it will be even more exciting than before. I am looking forward to the future. We write reports on everything we do, so we can communicate what we learned with our colleagues around the world, and with future scientists and engineers like yourself.

Last Updated: November 20, 2001


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