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Women of SDO - Wendy Morgenstern
 
Wendy Morgenstern › View larger
Wendy Morgenstern Credit: NASA
Q & A with Wendy

What first sparked your interest in science or engineering?
I loved math. Then, my high school physics teacher, Coach Sturgill, made the subject fascinating and I became interested in a career in math and science. I was lucky enough to intern for the Brunswick Engineering Corporation and for NASA/Langley Research Center while still in high school, and I was hooked on engineering. With a skydiving brother and my own private pilot’s license, my hobbies pointed the way to aerospace. This led me to freshman engineering at Virginia Tech and a co-op position at NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. I’m very lucky that what I decided to do when I was sixteen years old turned out to be exactly what I wanted to do.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy working with teams, bringing together all the diverse expertise to build something that has only been imagined.
What advice would you give to students who would like to work on a project such as SDO?
Don’t be nervous if you don’t know how to build a spacecraft. I always say that an engineering degree is a license to learn. School will teach you the language of science and math. From there, you can study specialized subjects, find mentors or simply learn on the job.

Also, realize communication skills are as important as your technical knowledge. If you cannot explain your conclusions, it is difficult to make progress.
What do you do on an average day?
It seems like I answer a lot of email and talk to a number of people, but team communication is a key part of my job. For a team to work together effectively, there must be a common understanding of the data, the goals, the deadlines and the interfaces. It’s all a system and everything is interconnected. A small change in, for example, a hardware device’s output means we need to change everything that connects to that interface – test equipment, software that reads that data, other flight systems that connect to the hardware.
What are the greatest challenges of your job?
Defining the problem. In school, there are homework problems in a textbook, but in the real world we have to define the problem in order to find a solution. That’s much harder than it sounds, especially when you’re doing things no one has ever done before.
What is your favorite hobby/activity outside of work?
Reading, cooking, gardening, history. My husband and I actively participate in historical recreation for the medieval, Renaissance and Elizabethan time periods and spend a lot of time researching material culture from other eras, which makes for a nice break from cutting edge engineering.



About Wendy

Full Name: Wendy Moore Morgenstern

Position/Title: SDO Guidance, Navigation and Control (GNC) Systems Engineer and Attitude Control Subsystem (ACS) Lead, Emeritus

Hometown (City,State): Marion, VA

Education:
  • Marion Senior High School. Marion, VA 24354. 6/89
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute & Statue University. Blacksburg, VA 24060. (8/89-5/94)
    Graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering
  • University of Maryland, College Park. College Park MD 20742. (8/95-12/99)
    M.S. in Aerospace Engineering with a Special Interest in Controls
Career Highlights:

I served as the SDO ACS Lead for six years, leading a team through the design, build, integration and test of a redundant attitude control system. I led the integration of the Attitude Control Subsystem (ACS) to the Propulsion system, bringing together the Guidance, Navigation and Control (GNC) functions into one system. Eventually, I took over the GNC Systems engineering work for SDO full time. Among my many responsibilities were leading the Maneuver team that delivered the Observatory to its final orbit, as well as leading the GNC on-orbit jitter testing, characterizing the Observatory on-orbit response to all mechanical disturbances.

Prior to SDO, I worked on the fine guidance sensor for the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST), a study that provided the foundation for Hubble’s successor, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). I also served a dual role as ACS Analysis and Flight Software Lead for the Triana mission. I was an ACS analyst for the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), following that project from design, integration and test of the observatory, then traveling to Japan for integration to the Japanese HII rocket for our launch from Tanegashima.

What influenced your career choice?

I loved math. Then, my high school physics teacher, Coach Sturgill, made the subject fascinating and I became interested in a career in math and science. I was lucky enough to intern for the Brunswick Engineering Corporation and for NASA/Langley Research Center while still in high school, and I was hooked on engineering. With a skydiving brother and my own private pilot’s license, my hobbies pointed the way to aerospace. This led me to freshman engineering at Virginia Tech and a co-op position at NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. I’m very lucky that what I decided to do when I was sixteen years old turned out to be exactly what I wanted to do.

Hobbies and Interests:

Reading, cooking, gardening, history. My husband and I actively participate in historical recreation for the medieval, Renaissance and Elizabethan time periods and spend a lot of time researching material culture from other eras, which makes for a nice break from cutting edge engineering.