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Meet: Julie Mikula, first woman mechanical engineer for the Simulation Laboratories Facility

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As a child, Julie Mikula had been fascinated with the principles of flight, wanting to know, "How could such large aircraft with massive weight be lifted off the ground?" At age 10, while watching the Apollo Mission moon landing with the rest of the world, she set another goal: to concentrate on science and engineering, earn a college degree and land a position with NASA.

Julie not only found a position with NASA but has advanced from mechanical engineer to manager of the world's premier Flight Simulation Laboratories (SimLab) Facility, which includes the world's largest motion base simulator, the Vertical Motion Simulator (VMS). The SimLab facilities have more than 120 employees to accomplish research needed in the National interests of aeronautical aircraft and Space Shuttle research.

Julie's parents, along with her high school math teacher Mr. Rich, supported her endeavors in an era and an environment when it was uncommon for women to pursue nontraditional careers. During her senior year at Michigan State University, she was offered a position at NASA Ames Research Center in California.

Julie's first position at NASA consisted of mechanical engineering in the design and building of aircraft simulation cockpit interiors. Among these simulation cockpits were rotorcraft simulation cockpits (XV-15, Blackhawks - UH60, V-22), fighter aircraft or short takeoff and vertical landing type aircraft (Harriers, YAV8B) and the Space Shuttle Orbiter simulation cockpits.

After saving enough money, Julie joined the Moffett Field Aviation Club to obtain her pilot's license. She began her lessons in June 1985 and obtained her single engine pilot rating four months later. Her training was exceptional as she did her take off and landings in between NASA Test Aircraft and Navy P-3 Orions.

In managing people, Julie stresses the team building, unifying goals and acknowledging diversity as an advantage. She has been a most successful leader, and NASA has seen the SimLab Facilities grow and continue to be the world-renowned facility that it is today. Julie has received more than 18 awards and honors in her NASA career. Astronaut Tammy Jernigan presented the highly coveted Silver Snoopy Award to Julie in January 1997.

Julie continually makes presentations to all levels of government and industry as well as schools and colleges. Not only is she involved with aviation and aerospace, but she is a wife, mother of two children, and she even planned, designed and was the general contractor of her 3,600 sq. ft. log home. Julie Mikula is a great role model who is paving the way for others who also have dreams.

Archived QuestChats with Julie Mikula


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