I am currently the Deputy Operations Manager for the Hubble Space Telescope Operations
and Ground System Project. I work with a team of engineers, scientists and flight
operations controllers to keep the HST satellite running efficiently. There are two parts
to the story, the satellite and the ground system. The telescope you've seen. The ground
system consists of dozens of computer systems each designed for a special function. Some
systems prepare the intricate lists of commands needed to take a single observation.
Other systems process, check and display what's happening on HST. Still other systems
process the data into the pictures you see. Each system has a dedicated staff of
programmers and operators who control the process. Part of my job is to help make all of
these systems and people get the job done well.
As for the spacecraft, there are teams of experts in every subsystem. They study the
behavior of the satellite to make sure it stays within its normal limits. They analyze
and explain any anomalies which occur. They even predict when components may break or
should be replaced. Each subsystem effects other subsystems. Part of my job is to help
the team work together and consider the interactions.
Every few years a Space Shuttle mission is dedicated to fly to the HST and replace
components. Some components have failed and must be replaced. But even more important,
better instruments which use the latest technology take the place of older ones. Part of
my job is to prepare for and participate as part of the ground crew for that mission.
My career as a civil servant began right out of high school. I worked as an
engineering trainee during summer and winter breaks. First I worked for the Rural
Electrification Administration in an office which reviewed plans for new power lines. I
transferred to the Naval Surface Weapons Center (NSWC) so I could work with electronics.
I really enjoyed this work so I accepted a full time job there when I graduated from
college. I was given increasing responsibility and very interesting and rewarding
electronics design challenges.
I went to classes at night and completed a Masters degree in Engineering Management
and requested an assignment to the Naval Sea Systems Command to try out my new skills.
That job was fun too but I missed "hands on" design. I was fortunate to get an offer from
the Goddard Space Flight Center. Although I knew a little about spacecraft, I knew a lot
about telemetry and electronics. I designed systems to process the telemetry data
transmitted from spacecraft. The telemetry contains the scientific measurements from
instruments onboard. Only recently did I get the opportunity to be involved in the
control and monitoring of spacecraft. I'm working with really smart people and learning
more each week.
I entered college with 3 potential careers: electronics, psychology, or photography. I
started in the electrical engineering program and enrolled in an introductory psychology
class. I took several classes in experimental psychology but never switched majors. As
for photography, I shot a roll of film a day for 6 months straight for the college
yearbook. I got burned out and have only shot a roll or two in the last 15 years. Taking
pictures with HST is more fun. I continued through the electrical engineering program
because, during my summer job, I could see the work was rewarding. I wanted in. Thinking
about it, I got a little of everything (photography, psychology, and electronics). The
HST takes great pictures. Understanding people and psychology comes in handy somedays.
And of course electronics, which is used in both the satellite and ground system.
The best part about my job is feeling part of something important. I like almost every
aspect of science and feel fortunate to be contributing. The worst part of my job is
worrying about the political issues. I can work very hard to conquer a technical
obstacle. I know that it can be overcome and that the result is worthwhile. Most of the
energy expended on political issues is wasted.
As a kid, I can remember being more interested in connecting a battery to a motor from
a toy car than in the toy itself. The plastic car hid the guts, it just got in the way of
understanding how it worked. I would get old television sets or radios discarded behind
the repair store. I didn't know enough to repair them, but I would take them apart and
marvel at all the parts. It was interesting to split open capacitors, resistors,
inductors, transistors, switches and motors. This practical knowledge helped me later
when I learned the theoretical. My parents gave me a multimeter for my 8th grade
graduation. I used it to observe the resistance of various resistors, the discharge of
various capacitors, and the function of diodes. For electronics, you are fortunate if you
can get an experimenter kit. It has the parts, the books, its all planned out and safe.
An engineering or computer science degree is the ticket into this field. I chose
electrical engineering because I was thrilled by the technology. I had classmate who were
equally thrilled by mechanical engineering or computer science. The course work for these
degrees is challenging. Start right now to learn good study habits. Find a quite place to
work (no TV or radio), plan your time, study hard (then reward yourself). I guess we've
all met someone who thinks studying and being smart isn't cool. Think about that a while.
Your smart enough to reach your own conclusion.
There are several people who influenced me. I had a fifth grade science teacher, Mr.
Kloepple who introduced us to the scientific method, the periodic table of elements (I
still have my hand drawn copy), and basic scientific principals. It was both difficult
and exciting at the same time. I had an eighth grade science teacher, Mr. Baley, who
emphatically told us "Don't let anyone ever tell you that school isn't hard." I think
what he meant was, if you expect school to be easy, you will try to make it easy, you
will be annoyed when it takes a little extra. Good mental exercise makes you feel just
like physical exercise: tired and strained. If you practice regularly, you get stronger.
My father operated and repaired radar for the U.S. Marines during World War II. He was
always helpful in answering my electronics questions. My grandfather was a self taught
chemical engineer. He was a great source of encouragement for studying hard and preparing
I have a daughter age 7 and a son age 4. They enjoy swimming, wrestling, and playing
with their 17 pound cat "Midnight". My daughter loves to sing and read. My son enjoys
building Lego, Tinker Toys and Capsella.
I own a sailboard which I take with me when we vacation at the beach. I am a Maryland
certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and an American Red Cross CPR and First Aid
Instructor. I enjoy helping others and teaching people how to do the same.