NASA engineer Starr Ginn lives an aviation-filled life. Ginn is deputy branch chief of the Engineering Directorate's Aerostructures Branch at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, an accomplished private pilot and aircraft owner.
Ginn's first experience at NASA Dryden was interning in the Summer High School Apprenticeship Research Program, or SHARP, after her junior year at Littlerock High School in Littlerock, Calif. She was asked to return to the same program the next summer.
This was followed by internships with a government contractor. In 1996, Ginn entered NASA's Cooperative Education Program for college undergraduates, spending five semesters at Dryden before earning a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from California State University Northridge.
"NASA Dryden reared me from childhood," said Ginn of her early years at the center, which is located on Edwards Air Force Base in California's Mojave Desert. "It was my competitive nature that got me in the door at NASA."
The mentoring Ginn received is being returned many times over as she takes SHARP and Undergraduate Student Research Program interns, co-op students, and new engineers under her wing.
While becoming an expert in ground vibration tests for research aircraft and unique test articles, Ginn found time to earn a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering from the University of California Los Angeles. Ginn designed, analyzed and proof tested a one-of-a-kind aircraft jacking soft system used for ground vibration testing. She also has many hours of control room experience supporting flight flutter testing. Flutter is the severe oscillations or vibrations that can damage or destroy an aircraft's structure.
Ginn is married to Tony Ginn, chief of Dryden's Flight Operations engineering branch. The Ginns plan to instill the love of flying in their two young children. Both their son and daughter made their first flight at 2 1/2 months old. The Ginns are experienced private pilots and own several private planes, stored in a hangar in the back yard of their home at a community airport.
"Make sure you try every opportunity brought to you," Ginn counsels young engineers. "Never second guess whether to do so. Nine of 10 times that opportunity opens a door that you didn't know existed."
"Take ownership of every task that is given you and do it to the best of your ability no matter how significant you judge it to be. The right attitude will lead to more responsibility faster that expected," Ginn added.
A high school calculus teacher who was a jet pilot inspired Ginn. The late Marta Bohn-Meyer, a project manager who became Dryden's chief engineer, did the same for Ginn at NASA Dryden. She was the first woman Ginn saw sitting behind a desk as a manager.
"Obstacles for women in engineering were more prevalent a few generations before mine," said Ginn. "Their work has paid off such that women at NASA are common place. I hope more women like me will get involved in math, science and engineering."
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center