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Shonte Wright
Thermal Systems Cognizant Engineer ("Cog-E") for
Mars Exploration Rovers mission
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

P2K: What set you on the path to doing what you are doing today?

Shonte Wright: My Mom is the reason I am a thermal engineer. She was so instrumental in my decision to become an engineer. My mother has been with Lockheed Martin for over thirty years. As a child, all I saw were pictures of planes all around the house. She constantly talked about how great the work at Lockheed was, and how phenomenal the engineers were with regards to coming up with designs that just constantly pushed the envelope. I was particularly interested in the SR71 and the U2: those are by far my favorite planes, and I was just blown away by the actual thermal designs, as well as the fluid analysis that really went into coming up with those designs, because I thought they were just fantastic.

When I was in fifth grade I learned more about the planes and I just realized that that was exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a mechanical engineer and I pursued that at the collegiate level, and it just got to the point where I realized I really, really enjoyed what I was doing and I wanted to look at it from a different perspective - that being spacecraft, as opposed to aircraft - so I pursued a second degree in mechanical engineering, but I looked specifically at thermal engineering because, as I learned more about engineering, I realized that thermal engineering was the niche that I really wanted to fill.

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