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Bruce Chapman - Science Investigator
October 20, 2011


Name: Bruce Chapman
Job Title: Senior Engineer
Education: Ph.D., Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; A.B., Physics and Astronomy, University of California, Berkeley
NASA Center: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Hometown: San Francisco, Calif.
Hobbies and Interests: Family


Tell us about the career path that led you to your present job.

In high school, I became interested in astronomy and pursued that in college. I had two summer jobs while in college. One summer I was loading tapes at the U.C. Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory (not very exciting, but I saw the types of work that people were doing), and the next summer I was helping operate the radio telescopes at the U.C. Berkeley Hat Creek Radio Astronomy Observatory. (This was a great job! I was very lucky to have it.) While in graduate school, I studied radio astronomy. When I started at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., I was in the radar science and engineering section, and I've been there ever since.

What attracted you to your career? When did you know you wanted this career?

I was good at math and science, and in high school I decided that would be a good career for me.

What was the most interesting class that you have taken to prepare you for your career?

Astronomy and physics classes were good preparation, and I found them interesting.

What do you consider to be the highlight of your career?

The highlight of my career has been working on research problems for mapping inundated wetlands using synthetic aperture radar, or SAR.


Tell us about the project that you are working on now.

I currently am working on several research projects funded by NASA. One is to use synthetic aperture radar data to map inundated wetlands around the world and monitor changes. Another is to use interferometric SAR data collected on a space shuttle SAR mission that measured vertical forest structure.

What specific responsibilities do you have that are related to G-III flight missions?

I sometimes help plan flights for Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar, or UAVSAR. I set up the mode that the radar will operate in and decide where the aircraft should be flown to meet the scientific objectives of the flight.


What NASA opportunities were you involved in as a young person?

I always followed NASA's planetary missions, but I never had the opportunity to be involved in any NASA projects until I started working at JPL.

What advice would you give to students interested in a career in your field?

Of course, understanding the material in math and science classes at school is important preparation for a career in remote sensing. Also important is learning how to write computer software.

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Bruce Chapman
Bruce Chapman is a Senior Engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
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Page Last Updated: August 1st, 2013
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