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Steve Wall
Advanced Projects Design Team Leader
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

How I Got to Where I Am

I always liked to discover new things. I liked finding a new kind of bug in my yard, or finding a new path through the woods in my neighborhood. When my dad gave me a corner in our basement for my own, I started building things: boxes, wheels, whatever I could think of. Then I started to focus on what I liked best and what I seemed to be good at. By the time I got to high school I knew I wanted to be a scientist. At North Carolina State University I studied physics, then I went to the University of Rochester for a Masters degree in engineering. NASA offered me my first real job and I learned how to design space instruments. I was lucky enough to work on the Viking Mission, where I helped design and build the cameras that would take the first close-up pictures of Mars. I liked trying to explain the pictures and won a research contract with the Mars Data Analysis program that moved me to JPL.

Likes/Dislikes About Job

I like building teams and getting them together to accomplish things. I like to find mysteries and explain them. I really like being able to do field work when I go to far-away places to compare them with what we see from space or what we find on other planets. Mostly I enjoy knowing that I am part of a giant learning experience that just keeps going. What I like the least is getting distracted from all the little things that don't really matter. Sometimes I get surprised and find little things that really do contribute to the experience after all.

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