Engineering as a Career

My mom’s cousin was an engineer and we visited them in Pasadena when I was in high school. I looked up at the Moon on Christmas Eve in 1968, deliberately burning into my memory the image of the Moon in the sky knowing that, at that instant, there were three people in a small spaceship in orbit about it. I was 15.

I think that’s when I figured a degree in engineering was my route to the space program. Being an astronomer might be neat, but I frankly didn’t think I was smart enough, as a PhD would be really difficult, and jobs in engineering seemed more likely than one in pure science.

Kitt Peak

A year or two later we took a family vacation to the Southwest. That probably inspired my brother to go to college in New Mexico, and me, Arizona (after one year at home at Marquette). Arizona had a great climate, a good engineering program, fairly low out of state tuition, a co-op engineering program, and a broad undergraduate astronomy program (photo of Kitt Peak, above). In Tucson, I could take several astronomy classes and still major in engineering. I would learn about the things astronomers study with their space-borne instruments, making me more valuable as an engineer since I would have more understanding of the mission the satellites would be designed for.