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Female Frontiers QuestChat Archive

Date: February 2, 1999

Featuring: Aprille Ericsson-Jackson
Aerospace Engineer
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 1 - 11:10:56 ]
Hello to our early arriving chat participants! Today's Female Frontiers/Black History Month chat with Aprille Ericsson-Jackson from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center will begin at 11:30 a.m., Pacific Standard Time. Be sure you have read Aprille's profile at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/space/frontiers.html before joining this chat.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 2 - 11:11:23 ]
Once the chat begins, Aprille will attempt to answer as many of your questions as she can, but please be patient. Today's chat will be moderated so that Aprille can keep up with us. This means that only a few questions will be posted to the chat room at a time. Don't worry if your questions do not appear on your screen immediately during moderation. They will be held in our chat queue and posted as Aprille answers those ahead of you.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 3 - 11:11:49 ]
Remember to enter "Your Handle" in the box provided. Once you've done this, please let us know that you have logged on for today's chat.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 4 - 11:12:15 ]
At the conclusion of today's chat, we ask that you take a few minutes to let us know what you thought about it. For your convenience, you may use our online feedback forms at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/qchats/qchat-surveys. We look forward to hearing from you!

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 9 - 11:26:06 ]
Hello and welcome to today's Female Frontiers chat with Aprille Ericsson-Jackson from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Aprille is the first (African American) female to receive a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Howard University, and in engineering at NASA GSFC. In order to understand how spacecraft may behave during flight, Aprille conducts simulations on spacecraft designs. The simulations allow her to determine if any changes should be made to the construction and design of spacecraft, and how the propulsion systems will function. She also teaches engineering design and professional engineering courses at Bowie State University in Bowie, Maryland.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 10 - 11:26:37 ]
And now, here is Dr. Aprille Ericsson-Jackson to answer your questions.

[ DrAprille - 14 - 11:27:20 ]
Hi Peoples I also want to add that I am currently teaching a Vibrations Analysis Class at Howard University.

[ DrAprille - 15 - 11:29:23 ]
RE: [Desiree] What type of books do you like to read? What was the LATEST BOOK YOU'VE READ FOR PLEASURE?
Desiree, Let me start by saying please excuse any typos. I will be trying to type fast so occasionally there will be boo-boos. I like science fiction, especially Stephen King. I just a book about dragons. The series is called the Dragons of Pern.

[ DrAprille - 16 - 11:30:52 ]
RE: [jay] what is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part of my job is understanding how all the components of a spacecraft work together.

[ DrAprille - 20 - 11:33:37 ]
RE: [GABRIELA] I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak to someone from NASA. My country is Greece and I am very fond of astronomy and relative topics. I am planning to stydy Economics in the Uni and I was wondering if I would have the chance when I take my degree to join NASA?
Gabriella, as a federal employee at NASA I believe you have to be a U.S. citizen. But there are contractors that I work with on Center that are international.

[ DrAprille - 21 - 11:34:58 ]
Sorry for my delay in answering questions but a TV crew is coming to my desk to document this and my phone keeps ringing.

[ DrAprille - 22 - 11:36:16 ]
RE: [JonathanfromGeorgetownDay] Do you feel a lot of pressure being a minority in such a high position at a place such as Nasa?
Believe it or not, I don't have a high position at NASA. Not yet. I am an aerospace engineer and have a couple of important jobs on a very high profile mission. Let me add. Because of my credentials I have gotten to do other important things like go to the White House for meetings relating to science, technology and education.

[ DrAprille - 25 - 11:39:53 ]
RE: [Desiree] How does it feel to be chosen one of the top 50 minority women in science and engineering?
Desiree It was wonderful. The award sits on my mantle. I have actually been selected for that Award twice by NTA. I have been lucky to receive numerous awards since then. In particular, WISE Award gives me a great feeling of pride because the award says,"The top woman engineer in the Federal Government for 1997"

[ DrAprille - 29 - 11:43:36 ]
RE: [Sarah] Have you always planned on having the profession that you have now?
Sarah, I didn't know that I would choose to be an engineer. I became interested in first grade when I got the chance to see the U.S. go to the moon. But throughout the years I thought I might be an artist, a track star, a karate expert, a lawyer, etc. It wasn't until h.s. did I realize how the pieces fit together. I just loved to figure out how things work and move and I loved putting things together. I should not forget how well I did in Math and Science. The real selling point was a summer program for hs juniors at MIT. The MITE program took us to an Air Force Base and I flew in a pilot simulator.

[ DrAprille - 31 - 11:47:01 ]
RE: [Laura] Hello! You probably have to deal with certain things on a day to day basis, in NASA, I am a girl and I am interessted in working at NASA when I grow up, do you think that being a women changes the way you are treated in NASA, ect. Because that's onew of the things I can't deal with.
I'm not sure if being a women changes things too much. But I noticed that the climate has changed towards women when they take maternity leave. I think I felt the most pressure at MIT. I didn't ever notice the difference due to gender because I had always been a minority in a class of all Caucasian students. And I always played sports with the boys. Fortunately, I was/am very good, so I didn't feel disadvantaged.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 32 - 11:47:25 ]
We'd like to remind you to share your thoughts about today's chat with us at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/qchats/qchat-surveys.

[ DrAprille - 33 - 11:48:31 ]
RE: [Crystal] What is it like to work at NASA?
Crystal Working here is very exciting. I love to see the announcements of missions/spacecrafts/satellites being launched.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 39 - 11:52:54 ]
We invite you to visit our schedule of events at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/common/events to learn about upcoming chats with NASA experts.

[ DrAprille - 40 - 11:53:12 ]
RE: [Desiree] What kind of classes did you have to take to become an engineer?
Desiree, Lots of mathematics: algebra I & II, geometry, precalculus, trigonometry, analytical geometry, calculus I & II, ordinary differential equations, linear algebra. Lots of science: physics, chemistry, Earth science, material science. Then there are other physics type classes: Dynamics--how things move, Statics--how things bend, break, Vibrations--how things vibrate or oscillate, and to prevent their movement or control their movement.

[ DrAprille - 41 - 11:53:48 ]
RE: [Desiree] Do you have any pets?
A black Chow Chow, that's a dog, and a purple fighting beta, that's a fish.

[ DrAprille - 46 - 11:55:24 ]
RE: [RodneyJordan/MonroeElementary] Our class is made up of all fifth grade girls. Any suggestions for us if we want to be like you?
Read, Read, Read. Play sports. I love that Nike commercial about women playing sports and all the positive things that are attributed with that.

[ DrAprille - 47 - 11:56:25 ]
RE: [Crystal] I am a Chemistry major at Western Carolina University. What kind of jobs does NASA offer for a person such as me?

[ DrAprille - 48 - 11:58:31 ]
RE: [MrsJolly] What was your science fair project about in Junior High? Where is it that you work? What city? What state?
The first Science fair competition I won was an old fashioned barometer made with a milk bottle. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is in Greenbelt, MD 20 minutes outside of Washington DC.

[ DrAprille - 49 - 12:00:54 ]
RE: [Desiree] Please explain your current work in the navigation and control, design Analysis section.
A lot of my work requires the computer. I use the web, Microsoft word for documentation, Excel for small calculation and atmospheric modeling and then a lot software program testing. I try to break the software that we right for the spacecraft.

[ DrAprille - 50 - 12:01:47 ]
RE: [Crystal] Was it difficult to get a job with NASA??
I was lucky I got a summer job and then I got offered a co-op position.

[ DrAprille - 55 - 12:03:20 ]
RE: [ANTONIO] Is what you do interesting to you all the time?
No not all the time because sometimes it is tedious. But I like it.

[ DrAprille - 56 - 12:06:59 ]
RE: [JonathanfromGeorgetownDay] wow cool. What kinds of missions have you worked on?
Tropical Rain Forest Mission, X-Ray Timing Explorer. If you vist the webiste for the profile of WON there is a link to the sites for the projects I have worked on.

[ DrAprille - 58 - 12:07:37 ]
RE: [Bosstjan] is there any particular project that you're on at this time?
Its Called MAP Microwave Anisotropy Probe

[ DrAprille - 59 - 12:08:42 ]
RE: [Katie] Dr. Ericsson-Jackson, I am working with a group of students at a science center in NC. They are considered underserved youth. I wanted to know what words of advice you could give these middle schoolers to help keep them excited about science while at school as well as at the science center?
Thats a tough one. I think that you have have the desire to want to know how things work. I loved that part about learning science.

[ DrAprille - 63 - 12:09:49 ]
RE: [MrsJolly] Do all the people that are there help you make the spacre station? Is it hard guiding rockets? Does it take lots of time? We are very curious 2nd graders!
At this particular center we do not work on the Space Station. A lot of our missions are small satellites and some ballon missions. Guiding the rockets requires cmputers and a lot of computer code which takes time. Satellites are what is carried by the rockets and that is what I work on. Yes it takes alot of time. But that is what I work on is decreasing the time so it costs less to build them.

[ DrAprille - 65 - 12:13:50 ]
RE: [Katie] What influenced your decision to attend MIT and then Howard University?
I grew up in Brooklyn NY but my mother is from Cambridge Mass. I spent every summer there and was exposed to MIT and HArvard. At first I thought I would go to Harvard to be a lawyer but I found I like engineering type things more and went to MIT instead.

[ DrAprille - 66 - 12:15:00 ]
RE: [Katie] What influenced your decision to attend MIT and then Howard University?
I went to Howard after I met my best friend, Melva. She had finished her undergraduate education at Howard and then she came to MIT. She encouraged me to go to Howard to do graduate work.

[ DrAprille - 67 - 12:16:47 ]
RE: [Bosstjan] what is the space engineering at the moment concentrated on?
There are so many space oriented type projects, that I couldn't really say what we are concentrating on. .

[ DrAprille - 72 - 12:19:19 ]
RE: [JonathanfromGeorgetownDay] It said in your biography that you teach at Howard University, which is cool (I live in DC and I'm a bit of a Bison fan myself). I know that Howard is a historically black college. Do the people there treat you differently than the people at NASA because of that?
Yes. They do. I find that many people don't respect the education that people receive at the historically black colleges. I find it hard to understand because a book is a book and the curricula are parallel when you compare them to other schools. Howard is an accredited engineering college (that means they have passed a board review to stay they meet certain standards).

[ DrAprille - 73 - 12:21:02 ]
RE: [Holly] What are the best and worst things about working for NASA?
I really like when I get to visit schools for NASA. I am not looking forward to the long schedule I will have to keep when we integrate the spacecraft components together and begin testing them. I am looking forward to the projects launch.

[ DrAprille - 74 - 12:21:37 ]
RE: [MrsJolly] We feel very lucky to talk to you. This is our first time doing something like this. We are very pleased! Elisha, Debbie, Alex, Candice, Rogelio, Jessica, Silvino, Valerie, Stephanie, Thomas, Santos, Sophia, Desi,Raymundo, Natalie, Priscilla, Jaime, Spencer, Anthony and Mrs. Jolly. Ruth Grimes School
Hello Ruth Grimes School. I am glad that you could make it.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 75 - 12:22:11 ]
For those of you preparing to leave us, be sure to share your thoughts about today's chat with us at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/qchats/qchat-surveys.

[ DrAprille - 76 - 12:22:35 ]
RE: [ANTONIofromPenderHighSchool] What was your GPA in High School?
Unfortunately, the private school I attended didn't kep a numerical GPA. THe majority of my grades were A's with a few B's.

[ DrAprille - 82 - 12:23:37 ]
RE: [Holly] Since I have not been to any space camps, is there less of a chance that I can work for NASA than if I had gone to space camp.
No way Holly. Space Camp is great experience but there are so many other places you can get similar types of experiences.

[ DrAprille - 83 - 12:25:50 ]
RE: [Desiree] Can you ever come down here and talk to us students here... in San Diego?
Desiree, I would love to come and visit you but the Speakers bureau does not have direct funding. Any school that wants me to come and visit has to find the money to pay for my travel. Sometimes schools request funding through their State Space Grant offices. I make approx. $60,000 + money for teaching

[ DrAprille - 84 - 12:28:46 ]
RE: [Holly] Once you go through school, what must you do to be able to work for NASA?
Well there are so many things one can do for NASA. Like Oran, who is our moderator, he helps with computer oriented service, i.e., websites, etc.,. There are graphic artists and painters, there is wood workshop in addition to the scientist, doctors, lawyers, computer programmers etc. If you want to work here, you have to try and be the best you can be so that you stand above the crowd.

[ DrAprille - 85 - 12:30:30 ]
RE: [Crystal] how long did it take you to get your current position? when did you graduate from MIT?
I graduated from MIT in 1986, I went to Graduate school in 1987. During the time I was working on my Ph.D. I started working at NASA around 1992.

[ DrAprille - 89 - 12:31:49 ]
RE: [Desiree] Are you married? Do you have kids?
Yes I am married. My husband's name is Mark. No kids yet but we are trying. I have a couple of nieces and nephews and godchildren that visit every summer. When they come I bring them to work for a couple of days. They like learning about the things that other people do here.

[ DrAprille - 90 - 12:32:17 ]
RE: [MrsJolly] Is your birthday in April? (We wondered because of your name.)
Yes April 1. But I am no fool. :)

[ DrAprille - 91 - 12:33:41 ]
RE: [Crystal] does howard have any programs on fashion designers or dancers?
I am not sure about fashion designing but they have a great program for dancing or performing arts. There are alot of famous African Americans that were trained there, such as Debbie Allen

[ DrAprille - 96 - 12:37:19 ]
RE: [Roselyn] Hello Mrs. Ericsson, I am an African-American women who is looking at MIT for college. I would like to know how your experience there helped you to become the the scientist that you are now. (2) Did you feel supported in your steps along the way to achieve your goals? and (3) How can I get involved with your e-mail pipeline for underepresented-minorities?
MIT has a great program for African-American HS Jr's. MITE. Check out my profile and there is a linkage to their site. There is a Office of Minority Education that is extremely supportive. There is also a program for incoming freshman called Interphase. It was extremely helpful in getting me ready for MIT. E-mail Oran Cox at ocox@mail.arc.nasa.gov who can contact me, and I will put you in contact with some students at MIT who can share their experiences.

[ DrAprille - 97 - 12:40:15 ]
RE: [Bosstjan] are there any special projects that you're working on?
Besides MAP, I work with local Universities to create/enhance their partnerships with NASA. Also have help create engineering curriculum at some of the universities. And I am trying to form a committee to help local schools apply for grant money to help support science and technology programs at their schools. I also like to keep in touch with White House policies on Science, Technology and Education and their effects on minorities.

[ DrAprille - 98 - 12:42:13 ]
RE: [Shonda] How does being highly recognized by the public change your life? Do you still get the same amount of privacy?
I am not like a celebrity or anything. Most people don't know what I do. Its is cool when I play softball that people call me Doc. But only occasionally have people recognized me from some TV show I was on or some public speaking engagement I have done.

[ DrAprille - 99 - 12:44:54 ]
RE: [audrey] As a youth coordinator, how can I inspire young african american students to become interested in Science and possibly pursue a career in science?
I guess you could start off by having local African American who are engineers or scientist come speak to them. Kids today usually like to hear that we are paid good salaries. Where are you located? Check your closest NASA facility and request a speaker for your program. There are a couple of posters that depict African Americans and describe their jobs in Technical fields.

[ DrAprille - 100 - 12:45:32 ]
RE: [Holly] How many people apply to be an astronaut in one year?
Don't qoute me on this but I believe 3,000 applied last Oct.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 106 - 12:47:34 ]
We once again invite you to share your thoughts about today's chat at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/qchats/qchat-surveys.

[ DrAprille - 107 - 12:48:43 ]
RE: [Klisha] What is your background life ; growing up and things like that
I grew up in Brooklyn New York in the projects. I moved to Cambridge with my Grandparents when I was 15. I attribute a lot of my success to my mother. My dad and she separated when I was 8 yrs. old. She has always been behind me in whatever I wanted to do. I was a TOMBOY. She put me in dance class to help smooth out the rough edges.

[ DrAprille - 108 - 12:50:44 ]
RE: [audrey] Do you have any children and if so, what are their ages?
No kids yet but I would like to have some soon. My nephews are Pierre 15, and Kaori 1 and my neice Ciarra 8. My godson Terrell is 13 and my god daughter Dominequica is 12.

[ DrAprille - 109 - 12:53:10 ]
RE: [Desiree] whast is your favorite hobby?
I have a couple of hobbies. Reading, Sports my favorite is basketball but I don't play it as much, I play a lot more softball and get to travel around the US with my team the Hardrock Senators. I love to draw and I played the clarinet when I was younger. I love working with my hands making stuff; I like working with wood. And occasionally, I sew and bake. .

[ DrAprille - 110 - 12:55:49 ]
RE: [Antonio] Have you ever created anything out of the ordinary, or working on something?
That's a hard one. I have made wooden boats as a child, I should mention I was a girl scout and went camping or to camp every summer. So I got to make things in the craft shop. One of my favorites was a leather cowboy belt. Sometimes I put together spacecraft models. I love to build rockets and occasionally will do it at a school on a Sat. morning.

[ DrAprille - 115 - 12:58:47 ]
I answered the GPA question already but try to get good grades. There are so many schools that have good programs. Of course I am biased to Howard Univ. and MIT. It really depends on what type of school you want to attend, i.e., big small, predominately white, historically Black or Hispanic, east coast, west coast, etc.. Also you must consider is there some special topic you are interested in the computer field and who is doing that type of research.

[ DrAprille - 116 - 13:00:56 ]
RE: [Holly] Are there certain places where people who work for NASA live?
At NASA GSFC people live all over the region. I live in DC and it takes me 20 minutes to get here. I think in the case of astronauts they live down at Houston because that is where they are trained. There are some astronauts that lived in Russia for 6 months to a year so they could work with the cosmonauts.

[ DrAprille - 120 - 13:03:34 ]
RE: [maria] Where did you do your internships?
My first internship I did at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton VA. The majority of my time I worked with my advisor at Howard University on my research and I was a teacher for some special programs during the summer. Occasionally, I traveled to other facilities like Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. Once I started working at Goddard I spent my summers working here.

[ DrAprille - 121 - 13:04:45 ]
RE: [Holly] If you had your life to do over again, would you choose to be an engineer again?
Yes, Yes, Yes. I think I would reconsider being a lawyer and work in the patent law area after getting my degree(s).

[ DrAprille - 123 - 13:08:57 ]
RE: [Desiree] from your bio I see that you were involved in high school extra-curricular activities. How did theese activites help you with your future goals? Would you advisr students to get involved in extra-curricular activities?
I think it is important to be well rounded as an child and as an adult. I find doing other things besides my job at NASA keeps me stress free. My work requires a lot of constant thought/analysis and this can be stressful. Thatís why I love sports and reading so much. It is also great when it comes time to fill out those college applications. You are more likely to succeed when you are well rounded. Other activities help a person grow and mature in other ways as well. Consider sports, you learn to be a team player. This is an important part of working at a place like NASA. We work in large groups to pull of a mission and everyone has to work together.

[ DrAprille - 124 - 13:11:57 ]
RE: [joel] does your job have a lot of stress?
Joel I hope my previous answer just answered your question. I think as I work longer in my job it will become more stressful because I will have more responsibilities. But I will also be more proficient at them, therefore; I can do them faster. Sometimes people are called in at the middle of the night or on holidays because a spacecraft is having problems. That really stinks because it is hard on your sleeping patterns but it also time away from your family. At those points, the stress is high because you have to respond quickly.

[ DrAprille - 128 - 13:14:07 ]
RE: [sara] You've written a lot of papers for competition. What advice could you give to students about writing and publishing?
When writing you must write and then rewrite and then let someone look it over and rewrite it again. If the material is worth presenting and it is innovative or a new technique then you should definitely publish it. Your advisor is a good place to start on how to publish a journal article and what is the appropriate place for your publication.

[ DrAprille - 129 - 13:15:59 ]
RE: [Sheldon] I want to eventually get into areospace engineering. I heard that is was harder to get a job w/ NASA and most independant areospace firms w/o military experiance.. Is that true?
No that is not true. I have no military experience and the majority of astronauts don't either. If you want to be a Mission Commander/Pilot and fly the Shuttle then you should have military flight experience.

[ DrAprille - 130 - 13:19:43 ]
RE: [Bosstjan] I'm coming to an end of a high school. This is High school for Electrical an Cmputer science and I'm wondering if there are any special spacecraft development&constriction job courses available in the near future and what qualifications are requiered to get the job?
Why aren't you going to college? There are jobs that require technicians. These jobs only require a high school education but they usually require some special training also. NASA Goddard has an apprentice program that they send qualified candidates through to get their technician licenses. I'm not sure what is available in your local area. You should check the local newspapers and/or talk to your hs guidance counselor.

[ DrAprille - 134 - 13:21:57 ]
RE: [Holly] Are you afarid of doing something that is very important wrong? If you ever do something wrong, do people say it's because you're a woman?
Yes, I am constantly aware of making mistakes. Fortunately, the system that my project team uses allows us to check each others work before we pass it off as completed. We have a test matrix on the web and have other methods to document our work so we don't miss anything.

[ DrAprille - 135 - 13:24:29 ]
RE: [Holly] Are you afarid of doing something that is very important wrong? If you ever do something wrong, do people say it's because you're a woman?
If I make a mistake I don't think people make comments that it was because I was a woman. Those perceptions are changing. I find it is only the older guys that think like that. More often people make comments because I am an African-American. People still believe that blacks are lazy and are stupid. This is extremely unfortunate. I try to prove them wrong every day! My address is: Dr. Aprille Ericsson-Jackson, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Code 572, Greenbelt, MD 20771

[ DrAprille - 137 - 13:29:27 ]
RE: [Sheldon] What are some good areospace engineering colleges? Other than U of M or MIT
I believe there are good programs at Stanford or Cal Tech., Georgia Tech has a great program, Tuskegee University, Renasseler Poly Tech, Texas A & M, Colorado, there are quite a few more than I can name.

[ DrAprille - 142 - 13:32:42 ]
RE: [MontgomeryHighSchool] Other than this online chat, what special activcities will you be a part of to celebrate African-American History month?
I will be doing minority recruiting at the Black engineers of the Year Conference next weekend. I will be speaking to the Black History Club down at Wallops Island (another NASA facility). I have a couple career fairs and some science fair judging. I am also doing a math project with an elementary school one evening.

[ DrAprille - 143 - 13:33:18 ]
RE: [RodneyJordan/MonroeElementary] THANKYOU from shanay, kimberly, antoinette
Thank you for listening and being patient.

[ DrAprille - 144 - 13:34:56 ]
RE: [MrsJolly] Thank you so much for answering so many people's questions. We are having fun learning about you! --Mrs. Jolly's 2nd grade class/Ruth Grimes Elementary School, Bloomington, California
Thanks to you guys also. And I will be looking out for my surprise. I hope all of you work hard and study hard and play hard. Good luck in school.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 140 - 13:30:59 ]
At this time, we would like to thank EVERYONE for joining us for today's Female Frontiers/Black History Month chat with Dr. Aprille Ericsson-Jackson from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center! Be sure to share your thoughts about today's chat with us at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/qchats/qchat-surveys.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 141 - 13:31:58 ]
We would like to thank Dr. Aprille Ericsson-Jackson for sharing her extraordinary experiences with us online today. We would also like to offer our thanks to Aprille for extending her chat with us, and offering us insight into her career. We appreciate her sharing her time and expertise with us online today!


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