Growing up I was aware of the Apollo moon landings but never dreamed of working for NASA. I grew up in a small rural Ohio community and spent most of my time with the animals or exploring the woods. My love for animals and nature led me to consider careers as a veterinarian or marine biologist. I loved science, math and music. While my career is based on science and math, music remains a big part of my life outside work. In college, I could not quite decide on a major. I didn’t want a job where I did the same thing every day-that would be too boring. I wanted something ever-changing to keep me active and engaged. Following my love for science and math, I graduated with a B.S. in Occupational Health and Safety.

Looking for my first “real job”, a mentor suggested I apply at NASA Lewis (now Glenn) Research Center. When I was hired as an industrial hygienist, I truly expected to stay only five years before moving on to private industry. However, once I got here I found many opportunities that kept me active and engaged. My assignments have changed every 3 to 5 years allowing me to learn new things and stretch myself. I’ve been with NASA over 25 years now and I haven’t gotten bored yet. Being part of NASA, supporting aerospace research, development and innovation, has been extremely rewarding. I have seen a Shuttle roll-out, two launches and a landing and I got goose bumps and teary-eyed each time.

During my first day on the job, my supervisor laid a copy of the Center’s Safety Manual (a 3-inch thick binder) on my desk and told me my first task was to read it cover to cover. That sent a strong message that personnel safety and health were extremely important to this organization. That message was reinforced in me a few years later when a co-worker died on the job. His death was due to natural causes but it had a profound impact. It reminded me how precious life is. As a result, I made a commitment to do my best to ensure that every person who came to work was able to go home to their family and loved ones as safe and healthy as when they arrived. People just want to do a good job and they shouldn’t have to compromise their safety or health to do that.

I vividly remember where I was and what I was doing the days we lost Challenger and Columbia. I didn’t know any of the astronauts personally but I felt the loss. There is risk inherent in what NASA does and we mustn’t become complacent about that risk. We must be ever diligent to identify, assess and mitigate that risk and not take things for granted. We must be mindful of the potential consequences.

The people I have worked with over the years have been tremendous-some of the brightest people I’ve ever known. Those relationships are precious. They have encouraged and challenged me to be a better person and I am very grateful for that. I’m also thankful for my parents and my husband who have encouraged and supported me over the years. The journey of life always includes trials and I’ve been blessed to have the love, counsel and strength of my family to help me along the way.

Some of the happiest moments of my career involve successfully completing a test project. There are always challenges related to working on the cutting edge and testing large and complex aerospace hardware. Being part of a diverse group of people that pulls together to overcome those challenges and go beyond the customer’s needs is very rewarding. Recently, I was fortunate to be part of a project that involved over 400,000 work hours and achieved a zero lost-time injury rate. It was wonderful working with a group of contractors and civil servants so dedicated to a common safety goal.

Early in my career, a friend told me that there are three phases to a person’s career. During the first phase, things are fresh and new and you’re in a learning mode. The second phase is mid-career when you’re doing the job. The third phase, where I am now, is about giving back-passing on what I’ve learned to the next generation. If I could offer one piece of advice it would be to find what you’re passionate about and pursue it boldly. Don’t let fear or timidity prevent you from living life fully. Believe in yourself and set your goals high.