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Meet: Oran E. Cox

QuestChat Project Manager
NASA Ames Research Center


Oran Cox

Chat Archives
Pictures from "Home"
Meet: My nephew, Jeremy Maeson!


Who I Am

I am an associate programmer/analyst at NASA Ames Research Center (ARC) in Mountain View, CA. My job is to manage all the QuestChats for our projects. Our current projects include Aerospace Team Online (ATO) (http://quest.nasa.gov/aero), Space Scientists Online (SSO) (http://quest.nasa.gov/sso), Space Team Online (STO) (http://quest.nasa.gov/space), and Women of NASA (WON) (http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/women). If you have participated in any of our chats before, you may recognize my name and have "chatted" with me online before. If you haven't, be sure to find out about our chats and how you can participate, by visiting our QuestChat Information Center, at http://quest.nasa.gov/qchats.


What I Do

Most of my work involves contacting NASA experts to participate in chats each week, and scheduling, operating, and archiving chats. We usually offer between 4 and 10 chats every week, and my calendar is generally booked with chats at least 2 months in advance. Therefore, scheduling a vacation is certainly quite a challenge!

Before managing the QuestChats, I was the project manager for STO. For that project, I managed the chats as well as developed content for the web site, with autobiographies, field journals, and online activities. Prior to managing STO, I worked as a college intern on the Shuttle/Mir Online Research Experience (S/MORE) project with a small team. My primary responsibility for S/MORE was to interview scientists and engineers in order to produce their autobiographies and field journals for the site. My internship experience prepared me for future web site development and project management responsibilities.


My Career Journey

After graduating from high school in San José, CA, I attended Marquette University (MU) in Milwaukee, WI, where I spent my freshman year and majored in computer science. At the end of my freshman year, I returned to San José and enrolled in a local community college, where I continued my computer science studies, and later transferred to San José State University (SJSU).
About a year and a half before I graduated from SJSU, I decided to change my major to anthropology, after accumulating a whole bunch of knowledge, coursework and research experience in math and science. Shortly thereafter, I began my internship at NASA with the Quest group. (Check out my internship profile at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/smore/team/ocox.html). Because of my diverse academic background, members of the group weren't quite sure what to do with me at first. Fortunately, I was able to "fit in" well with the group, and was hired full time after graduating in 1997.

I finally received my bachelor's degree about 8 and a half years after I began. But I guess I liked school so much that I decided to keep going. So, I applied to graduate school about eight months after graduating, and was accepted. Now, in addition to working full time at NASA, I squeeze in graduate school coursework and research at SJSU, and will begin my fifth semester in January, 2000. I've chosen instructional technology as my focus, and it's a lot of fun.

Oran Cox photo

Likes About Career

The best part about the work I've done has been being able to meet many different people throughout NASA and offer them opportunities to share their personal and professional lives with children and the general public. I enjoy receiving letters from young people about how much they enjoy being able to "talk" to NASA people during chats, or read about their interesting lives in their autobiographies. Our group is also happy to receive letters of thanks and good wishes from many of our NASA participants. We are always encouraged to hear we are making a difference to those in and outside NASA.

I am very pleased with the information our projects offer, relating to NASA employees' personal and work lives. Many of them have been open and honest about their work and have described themselves as what we would call "real people." I think discussion of their personal perspectives has allowed them to show themselves as "living, breathing and thinking" human beings, and not "just scientists."

I'm also glad to see that many of our participants have felt comfortable enough to discuss "sensitive" issues relating to race or gender equity, which are important to them.. I think their acknowledgement of the obstacles they have faced in these areas, but have not been defeated by, is very important to share with young people.


Dislikes About Career

I think the hardest part of my work is trying to coordinate with NASA experts for chats. Many of them are very busy, especially when a mission is being planned or when a shuttle launch is near. The process of trying to communicate with them can be frustrating. I'd have to say that patience really plays a part in my work because results are not instantaneous. But I think the results are worth it.

Graduate school also makes my schedule a bit more hectic. During the semesters, I have to leave work early for classes or to meet with professors. This means I have to catch up on work from home during the evenings or weekends, in addition to studying. I must keep my schedule pretty steady to accomplish what I need to during the week.


Oran in office Advice

Follow the path you believe is best for you. People will offer you suggestions about what they believe is best for you, or criticize your decisions throughout your life. However, as long as the United States upholds individualism, you are ultimately responsible for choosing your own path in life. Therefore, if you are willing to work hard to achieve your goals, then you can be successful at whatever you pursue. The road may not be an easy one, but just keep pushing for what you want and never forget where you ultimately want to be.


Personal Information

My father is retired and lives in Natchitoches, Louisiana, which is about four hours north (driving) of New Orleans. I have four sisters and a brother. My father is originally from Natchitoches, and my mother from Texas. My parents had been married for almost 40 years before my mother passed away in early May, 2000. My two oldest sisters were born in Oakland, Calif. and my other sisters, brother and I in San José.

My oldest sister graduated from Santa Clara University (SCU) in 1983 with a degree in computer science. She lives in Danville, Calif. and is a manager at a major high-tech company in the Bay Area. My second oldest sister graduated from Stanford University in 1984 with a degree in mechanical engineering. She and her husband also live in Danville, not far from my oldest sister. We are enjoying the arrival of their first child to our family. My sister has served as vice president of a large corporation, and her career has sent her to many different countries in Europe, Asia, and the Pacific Islands.

Oran with sister My brother lives in San José with his wife. He plans to earn a degree in economics and works in San José. In addition to his many daily responsibilities, he cares for the family dog, Anxious, who actually belongs to one of my sisters. Anxious is about 14 years old and has finally mellowed out. (He has also finally forgiven me for moving away from him over 5 years ago.)

The fourth youngest is another sister who graduated from SCU in 1991 with degrees in communication and psychology. She lives in San Ramon, Calif. with her cat, Boo. She has her own consulting business and is also pursuing a performance career. (She has a CD out which is REALLY good. This is a totally unbiased opinion, of course.)

I live by myself in San José. I jog every day and work out to keep in shape. But I still love eating pizza once in awhile! Although I do not watch much television, I do enjoy watching some programs here and there. I mainly tune in to news programs, PBS programs, "The X-Files," "The Outer Limits," and of course, "Star Trek."

I'd say my most peculiar recreational activity is reading the Sunday newspaper. When I was living with my brother, I always reserved Sunday mornings for drinking coffee and reading the newspaper for a couple of hours with Anxious. Although I still have coffee and read the newspaper on Sundays, it's not the same without Anxious and the peaceful environment of our neighborhood.

My youngest sister (pictured above with me) lives in Dublin, Calif., and graduated from Stanford in 1993, with a degree in mechanical engineering. She works as an engineer at a high-tech company in the Bay Area, after working and living in San Diego, Calif. for several years. Her career has also included extensive travel to other states in the U.S., Central and South America, and Asia.


March 1996: Oran, Dad and Mom in New Orleans, LA
Oran with dad Although I do not see my family very often, I'm glad we're able to get together at least once or twice every year. A few us try to get together each year to keep in touch, and we finally set our parents up on e-mail to make communication with them much easier and more frequent. It's been a great way to help all of us stay in touch with each other.
Looking Toward the Future

Right now, my short term goals include finishing graduate school, and applying the new skills I learn to my work. I'm also thinking about how to convince NASA that an anthropologist with my background would make a great mission specialist. That's probably a long way off (and a long shot). But thanks to John Glenn, I have a lot more confidence that I'll have time to pursue (and hopefully achieve) that goal.

Oran with mom
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