Attention to Details Is What Makes Eileen Barnes Tick
Eileen Barnes pays attention to details, whether arranging for Dr. John Mather to receive the Nobel Prize or organizing a marathon trip for her and her best friends.
Assistant to Dr. John Mather and Project Support Specialist
Organization She Works For:
Code 443, James Web Space Telescope Project, Flight Projects Directorate
What is most interesting about your role here at Goddard?
Definitely, my work for John [Dr. John Mather] is the most interesting thing I do. Every situation with him is different. He gets invited to various places to speak and each time everything is different. I worked with an individual from the Nobel Prize Committee to arrange his trip to Stockholm in December 2006 to receive the Nobel Prize in Physics. The two of us together handled all the details. John said it was a trip of a lifetime because there were all kinds of special dinners and ceremonies.
I also answer all kinds of phone calls, especially for John. One time he was asked to be on the show “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader,” which he declined. You never know who is going to be calling, from where, or for what reason. It could be anybody. The same is true for email, which I also help him manage.
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Photo of Eileen Barnes. Credit: NASA
In addition to working with John, I also support the James Web Space Telescope (JWST) Project Team. I work in JWST’s project office. I’m always at my computer. I’m there to help anybody on a daily basis and that includes setting up travel, both domestic and foreign; processing badge requests; and helping with project reviews.
What is the coolest thing you’ve ever done as part of your job at Goddard?
When John won the Nobel Prize, he needed someone to assist with the overwhelming responsibilities that come along with receiving that honor. So management agreed that he needed an assistant, and I was chosen for the job. I had just graduated from college.
JWST partners with the Canadian Space Agency and the European Space Agency. So I traveled to Munich, Germany for a partner’s workshop in 2008. I’ve also been to Ottawa, Canada for another partner’s workshop in 2010. It’s very awesome when I get to go on foreign travel.
What makes Goddard a great place to work?
Goddard is great because of the people. Almost every person I work with here is genuine and has a good work ethic. This is especially true for the people on my team. We’re all working towards one goal which is to launch the telescope. I really enjoy working with the great people on my team.
What have you learned about what makes a great team player?
John has taught me the importance of teamwork and how to work with people in a professional, friendly, and encouraging manner. I don’t learn science from him, but just watching him interact with people and how he appreciates every type of person are lessons for me. I observe him a lot in personal and email interactions. I just really respect his consistency and his regard for others. He is a very humble man and a great teacher.
A great team player is willing to collaborate and listen to other people. He or she wants to hear all sides and understands and appreciates everyone’s background. It is definitely important to put the common goal above any individual interest.
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Eileen enjoying one of her favorite pastimes--cooking for friends and family. Credit: E. Barnes
Is there something surprising about you, your hobbies, interests, activities outside of work that people do not generally know (like you run ultra marathons or work on a NASCAR pit crew on weekends)?
I love food and I love to cook. I’m not a big baker, but I enjoy making pasta dishes, seafood, and casseroles. I will try any kind of cuisine. Right now my favorites are Korean and Indian. I cook for my friends and family.
Do you have a favorite way or place to kick back, relax, or have fun?
I spend a lot of time with my friends and family. Any opportunity to hang out with them is great. I have four best friends from middle school and we now live all across the country. We plan special trips together. I love to travel and taking trips with them is always fun. In a few days, my four best friends and our boyfriends are all meeting in Tennessee for a music festival. It will be a marathon event!
Elizabeth M. Jarrell
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.