NASA Manager Followed a Non-Traditional Path
Carol Carroll Image of Carol Carroll
Photo Credit: NASA Ames Research Center

As an adolescent Carol Carroll, now NASA Ames' deputy director for science, thought she might like to be an architect. "I wanted to take drafting in high school, not cooking and sewing," she said.

When Carroll entered high school in the 1970s, women were not encouraged to pursue “traditional male degrees” like architecture and engineering. She was told that only boys could take drafting. After pleading her case to her mother, her mother argued on her behalf and convinced the school to allow her daughter to take the class.

"I talked a girlfriend into taking the class with me, and we were the first girls to take drafting. I loved the class, and I am proud that I fought for what I wanted and helped blaze a trail for girls after me," said Carroll.

She earned a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Blacksburg, Va. After college, she worked as a design engineer for missile launch systems at Westinghouse Electric Corporation, Sunnyvale, Calif. When the system went into production, she moved to Acurex Aerotherm Corporation, Mountain View, Calif., where she continued performing technical management for the design, analysis, fabrication and testing of several prototype and production missile launch systems.

"Working at these companies, I learned how to design complex, large scale systems using rigorous design and systems engineering methodology," recalled Carroll.

Her work was remembered by a former manager, who had accepted a position at NASA Ames Research Center, and he asked her if she would be interested in working at NASA Ames. The job involved performing a probabilistic risk assessment for a wind tunnel modernization project. As an engineer, she thought it was a good career move to learn risk management. She agreed to take the job, and worked on the Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel Modernization Project for the next three years.

"I was thrilled to think that I could work for NASA," said Carroll proudly.

While at Ames, she worked in the Space Technology Division for seven years as a systems engineer, project manager, deputy division chief, and ultimately acting division chief. In that span of time, she managed the research and technology development efforts for thermal protection system development, aerothermodynamic analysis, arc jet testing and nanotechnology.

"I am proud of the work I did, which delivered flight hardware for multiple critical NASA missions, including Mars Pathfinder, Mars Exploration Rovers, and Stardust," Carroll concluded.

Carroll's passion is the science that may one day unravel the mysteries of the Earth, our solar system and the universe.

"I like doing new things, and at NASA, we never do the same thing twice," Carol concluded.

Ruth Dasso Marlaire
Public Affairs Specialist
NASA Ames Research Center