NASA People

Center Snapshot: Kathy Powell and Kathy Powell
03.30.09
Kathy Powell, SD, and Kathy Powell, SRO. Image above: Kathy Powell of the Science Directorate and Kathy Powell of the Strategic Relationships Office have a combined 43 years at NASA Langley. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith

By: Denise Lineberry

Kathy Powell, a physical scientist in the Science Directorate (SD) and Kathy Powell, a special programs manager in the Strategic Relationships Office (SRO) became acquainted almost instantly after Powell of SRO was hired at NASA Langley.

That's because when Powell of SRO was hired, the center's database replaced Powell of the SD's information, with her information.

"I came to work one day and no longer had an e-mail address and was no longer in the phone list. I had to figure out whom to contact to get everything reinstated," said Powell of the SD. "Except for occasional phone calls and e-mail mix-ups by co-workers, we have maintained separate identities."

Surely, NASA Langley would need both. After the mistake was corrected the Kathys became acquainted on a more positive note – at Sentara Fitness Center.

"I recall when my children swam for their high school swim team and they practiced at the Sentara Health and Fitness Center's pool. There was a large acknowledgment on the far wall saying, 'Congratulations, Kathy Powell, you have swam to Nags Head.' It was a competition going on within the Master’s Swim program," said Powell of SRO. "The high school swimmers would look in awe and assume it was me, and I would quietly nod and take credit where it wasn’t due!"

Both Kathy Powells participated in the same Master’s Swim program, but as Powell of SRO explained, "the ‘other’ Kathy Powell was always laps ahead of me!"

Their names and routines may be similar, but their work is not.

Powell of the SD has been working at NASA Langley for 27 years. As a physical scientist, she works on the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) project.

"I work to develop the science algorithms that are used to process the CALIPSO data -- in particular the calibration of the lidar data -- and work with the data management team to make sure the science algorithms are correctly converted to processing software," she said. "I also verify the location of the lidar footprint on the surface of the Earth."

She enjoys the people she works with and the challenges and problem solving she is faced with each day.

Powell of SRO has been working at NASA Langley for 16 years. As a special programs manager, she is responsible for the coordination and management of NASA Langley's Motivating Undergraduates in Science and Technology (MUST) program, Achieving Competence in Computing, Engineering and Space Sciences (ACCESS) program, and the Undergraduate Student Research Program (USRP).

She also coordinates educational tours and acts as a liaison for NASA program coordination of Pre-Service Teacher Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program and for activities with Cooperating Hampton Roads Organizations for Minorities in Engineering (CHROME).

"It is wonderful to work within an organization that thrives on making ‘stuff’ happen along with ensuring that projects and programs are successful," said Powell of SRO. "The day flies by. I could never achieve what I do if our organization didn’t work as a team."

She enjoys witnessing the transition of the students she works with into other NASA programs and graduate schools.

Both Powells consider fitness a big part of their lives.

Powell of the SD completed an Ironman competition in Sunapee, N.H.; the JFK 50-mile run, a 24-hour relay run from Canada to Idaho and various other races with distances ranging from marathon to 5K.

"I consider myself lucky because I get to spend my workout time with Dick, my husband, and many good friends," she said.

Powell of SRO has a 5K completion on her list of goals. That is following her checked off accomplishments of "two wonderful children, rebuilding my house following Isabel, hiking to Glacier Lake in Montana, surviving breast cancer, building life-long friendships in my office and supporting and caring for my daughter, who was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis when she was 2 and who is presently a healthy, active adult."

As for Powell of SD, "completing the Ironman and finishing as the fifth place woman was something I will probably never forget," she said. "Also, the opportunity to be at Johnson Space Center and participate in a Shuttle mission -- Lidar In-space Technology Experiment (LITE) mission on STS-64."

She plans to "continue my work to help the science community gain a better understanding of the Earth’s atmosphere," while Powell of SRO plans to "expand her career."

In the meantime, they'll continue seeing each other at Sentara Health and Fitness center and at the occasional NASA Langley event. And possibly forwarding an email to the appropriate Powell's inbox, where it was intended to go.