Occupation STEM is a web series designed for 6th-12th grade students to spark interest in STEM related careers. This collection features interviews with various scientists, engineers, and other STEM related professionals working in Alabama.
Tiffany Lockett is a Lead System Engineer for the Solar Sail for NEA Scout. Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) Scout mission is a reconnaissance mission in which a small spacecraft will be launched with the Orion capsule and sent to an asteroid. Tiffany coordinates all the technical and project elements of the Solar Sail. A unique capability of the Solar Sail is that it uses sunlight as a propellant which allows it to go from low earth orbit all the way to an asteroid. Once there, the mission will be to study the asteroid and asteroid retrieval, detection, and avoidance. Tiffany’s passions and education led her to degrees in Physics and Aerospace Engineering. She then went on to work at NASA Goddard which has a concentration in earth and planetary science. Now she is based at NASA Marshall where they specialize in rockets. In STEM related fields, you can do almost anything. Research and find out what your interests really are and follow that path.
Niki Werkheiser works as an In-Space Manufacturing Project Manager for NASA. For longer duration space missions, it is important to be able to make what you need. Werkheiser creates the technologies and processes to make it possible to create what is needed while in space. This involves 3D printing which can be used in space to produce different instruments that may be needed. Large Scale 3D printing is now being tested for use to print habitats on Mars using dirt and binders. Although Niki got a Bachelors and Masters Degree in Gravitational Biology so that she could move into work to cure cancer in space, her career shifted to 3D Printing and Manufacturing for NASA. She advises that those interested in STEM careers follow their interests and passions and let those talents guide your future career path.
Markeeva Morgan is the Avionics Hardware Manager for the Space Launch System (SLS) Core Stage. Avionics are the electronics on the rocket; the sensors, computers, and electronics tell the rocket where it is. NASA is in the process of building the largest and most powerful rocket ever, the Space Launch System rocket. This rocket will have enough power for liftoff and the journey to Mars. Markeeva elaborates on STEM careers that are crucial to this and other NASA projects.
Dr. Jessica Gaskin is a Research Astrophysicist that designs, builds, and tests instruments that go into space for the X-Ray Group at NASA Marshal Space Flight Center. She is a Study Scientist for the Lynx Mission - a concept that NASA is studying with the intention that it be the next great observatory. X-ray Observatories are telescopes specially designed to detect X-ray emission from very hot regions of the Universe such as exploded stars, clusters of galaxies, and matter around black holes. Dr. Gaskin gives career advice to those interested in a career like hers or other STEM based careers.