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Margaret Dominguez - Inspired By Those Around Her and Across the Pond
04.30.13
 
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COOP EDITION

AST Optical Engineering COOP finds inspiration in Margaret Thatcher and her colleagues at Goddard.


Name: Margaret Z. Dominguez
Age: 26
Hometown: Tecamachalco, Puebla in Mexico
Position: Graduate COOP student in the optics branch, Code 551
School: For graduate school: College of Optical Sciences at the University of Arizona
Major: Graduate degree: Ph.D. in Optical Sciences, undergraduate degree: B.S. in Physics

Describe how you do your job, where you do it.


I work in the AST Optical Engineering branch code 551. Since I arrived at Goddard, I have switched between groups within the branch to gain valuable knowledge and experience. Each group specializes in different optics tasks; my favorite group specializes in optical. The work ranges from putting an optical system together from scratch to doing data analysis in front of a computer.

Do you use any cool tools, or instruments or equipment to do your job?


One summer I was able to use a sophisticated instrument called a “laser radar.” This device can perform very accurate measurements in the submicron order of magnitude. It sends out a pulsed beam of light and detects its return to very accurately scan a surface.
Photo of Margaret Dominguez› Larger image
Photo of Margaret Dominguez in her office. Photo courtesy of M. Dominguez
One day after a long day of measurements, a few colleagues and I scanned another colleague’s face. The radar is so precise that the scan showed a replica of the person’s face (the beam is safe as long as the person has their eyes shut and this person had volunteered to be scanned).

How did you find out about the opportunity at Goddard?


I got started at Goddard in the summer of 2008 as an intern as part of the SESI (Science and Engineering Student Internship) program. That summer, without knowing I would fall in love with optical metrology, I started working in the Assembly, Integration and Testing Group in the optics branch. I liked it so much and got along with the rest of the team so well, that when they heard that there was an opening in the Cooperative Office Education (COOP) program, I was encouraged to apply.

Who is the most interesting, inspiring, or amazing person you have met or worked with here at Goddard?


Ray Ohl, my mentor two out of the five times that I have been at Goddard. He is definitely one of the smartest people I know and also a great teacher. He is patient and very creative when explaining something. Another person that I deeply admire is Maria Nowak, the current branch head of code 551. She is very smart and a hard working person, this has helped her get to the position that she now has.

Photo of Margaret Dominguez and some of her colleagues.› Larger imageL to R: Joe McMann, Ray Ohl, me, Joe Conelly. Photo courtesy of M. Dominguez

How will this opportunity help you reach your future goals (job experience, college, career goals etc.?)


Since I was in high school in Mexico, I always knew I wanted to attend graduate school in either science or engineering. After I completed my internship at Goddard, I knew that it would be in optics. Being at Goddard helped me look into the best possible universities in the U.S. that offered optics. Since 2008, I have been going back to Goddard every year and plan to continue to do so until I graduate with my Ph.D.

What event, activity or project are you most excited about or have done at Goddard?


Since I got started at Goddard, I have had the great pleasure to be working as part of the JWST (James Webb Space Telescope) project, this has been fantastic.
Every test, measurement and task I have done (aside from some quick measurements I also did for Hubble), has been somehow connected to James Webb. I have to say that everything I have done at Goddard has gotten me excited!

What lessons or words of wisdom would you pass along to somebody just starting their internship at Goddard?


Be patient, enjoy and always be willing and looking to learn. Enjoy what you do, because if you worry too much about the work and logistics you will miss out on all the great things happening around you. There are so many smart and experienced people around you. They have a lot to share with younger people. I have found that the senior engineers and scientist are always willing to help, explain and share their knowledge, but we need to ask for it and be willing to learn.

Give me one famous person you admire and tell me what you admire about them.


Margaret Thatcher: my namesake. My father admired her for many years. As soon as he knew that his firstborn was a female, he knew he would name me Margaret. She has been through struggling times, and has had to prove herself to find herself in the respected position she now has.

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Shamara A. Thornton
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD