Up and Coming
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Joel R. Sitz Joel R. Sitz
NASA Photo
Joel R. Sitz

Joel R. Sitz is Dryden's deputy associate director for programs. He is responsible for supporting the associate director for programs in the task of assisting center leadership in defining Dryden's roles in carrying out NASA and center programs and projects. Prior to his current position Sitz was mission director for Dryden's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. He was responsible for development, management and technical direction of all Dryden space exploration activities and projects.

He is known best by nominators as manager of the X-43A experimental aircraft project, a position he held from July 1998 to December 2004. Sitz was responsible for the overall flight-research portion of the Hyper-X program, which successfully demonstrated hypersonic, air-breathing propulsion featuring the first free flight of a hypersonic airframe-integrated, supersonic combustion ramjet (scramjet) engine at Mach 7 and Mach 10. The X-43A is known as the world's fastest air-breathing aircraft.

Nominators had a lot to say about Sitz's successful management of the X-43A project, calling him "determined," "energetic," "talented," "insightful and inspiring," and "passionate, with a grand vision," saying that "if you need a project done, get Joel."

Sitz has 22 years of experience in the aerospace industry, including 14 years as project manager of several flight research projects at Dryden. He also was mission development director for the Uninhabited Air Vehicle Technology project from January 2005 until October 2005.

In addition, his program and project experience includes deputy program manager at Dryden for NASA's Aviation Safety program, which included the F-18 Systems Research Aircraft and the L-1011 Adaptive Performance Optimization projects. He was also deputy project manager for the F-16XL no. 2 Supersonic Laminar Flow Control project.

Michael P. Thomson Michael P. Thomson
NASA Photo
Michael P. Thomson

Michael P. Thomson is Dryden deputy director for flight operations. In this position, which he has held since 2005, he assists the directorate chief in planning, coordinating and directing all engineering and technical support functions and in determining overall directorate programs and objectives. Thomson also provides technical guidance and direction for flight-operations activity.

Nominators said Thomson is an "organizational leader" and "good guy."

As a flight test engineer for a variety of research aircraft, Thomson partners with test pilots in planning, development, coordination and execution of research missions. In this role, he has acquired more than 200 flight hours in high-performance aircraft. Since 1999 Thomson has accepted increasingly responsible engineering management posts, including deputy chief of the Flight Systems Branch of Dryden's Research Engineering directorate, chief of the Operations Engineering branch in flight operations and deputy director of the Research Engineering directorate.

For nearly two decades Thomson was an aerospace engineer specializing in verification and validation of airborne, flight-critical control systems. As Honeywell's lead flight control software engineer, Thomson developed test procedures for verification and validation testing of the flight control system for the X-29 aircraft. At PRC Inc., Thomson served for three years as lead flight systems engineer for development of research flight control system software for Dryden's F-18 High Alpha Research Vehicle.

Thomson accepted a civil service position at Dryden as an aerospace engineer in 1994. He worked as chief engineer on the F-15 Advanced Control Technology for Integrated Vehicles project and led the advocacy and formulation of the Intelligent Flight Control online learning follow-on program. He also provided expert consultation to NASA, U.S. Air Force and private industry in the verification and validation of airborne flight-critical control systems.

Gwendolyn V. Young Gwendolyn V. Young
NASA Photo
Gwendolyn V. Young

Gwendolyn V. Young is Dryden's Associate Director for Management. She is responsible for the center's offices of Procurement, Diversity and Equal Opportunity, Facilities Engineering and Asset Management, Human Resources Management and Development, Security, Strategic Communications, Management Systems, and Employee Assistance.

Nominators said she was "smart," "friendly," "a good communicator" and exhibited "positive leadership."

"I firmly believe that people are at their best when they collaborate, especially because no one individual or single organization can accomplish their job without others," Young said. To that end, she brought together the present Code XM team. In the past, the functional organizations met only when there were challenges but now hold regular forums to exchange information and focus efforts. Aligning the team's resources and ensuring that one organization is not optimizing its results at the expense of another is maximizing effectiveness. For accomplishments like those of her work with the XM team, Young earned the rank of Meritorious Executive in 2005 for sustained service and accomplishments in NASA program management.

Young's previous position at Dryden was as chief financial officer. She was responsible for overall financial and budget activities and served in that position from May 1995 to September 2001. Prior to the CFO position, she worked at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi as the Resources Management officer, responsible for all budget activity.

Earlier in her career, Young worked as a program analyst in the Office of the Space Station at NASA Headquarters and in the Space Station Freedom Program Office in Reston, Va. Young began her career with NASA in 1983 as a Presidential Management Intern in the Office of the Comptroller at NASA Headquarters and worked in the Budget Resources office. During her internship, she worked for then-U.S. Rep. Daniel K. Akaka of Hawaii.

Eddie Zavala Eddie Zavala
NASA Photo
Eddie Zavala

Eddie Zavala is deputy Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy program manager, a position he assumed in March 2008.

Nominators called Zavala "exceptional," "personable," "sincere" and "easily approachable." In addition, he is seen as "passionate," "bright," and with "vision." Other nominators said he was a "positive role model," a "leader for the future," a "really talented, technically astute leader," "respected," and a person that exhibits "professionalism" and "a good understanding of the way things are and an ability to see the big picture."

Zavala was mission director for Aeronautics Projects in November 2006. He supervised nine project managers and oversaw implementation of all Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate activity at Dryden. Zavala also supported NASA Headquarters/ARMD as a center representative for program-level reviews, investigative teams and advocacy efforts. During a recasting of ARMD programs at NASA Headquarters in fiscal year 2006, Zavala was Subsonic Fixed Wing project manager under the Fundamental Aeronautics program.

In 2004, he was a project manager within the Vehicle Systems program for the Flight and System Demonstrations project, and later in 2005, he served as the center's executive officer. In 2000, Zavala returned to Dryden - after a two-year assignment at Johnson Space Center, Houston - where he had been a space shuttle flight controller. He worked on shuttle avionics upgrade projects, including the shuttle's glass cockpit. Upon returning to Dryden, Zavala was lead systems engineer for the Autonomous Formation Flight project, and later served as chief engineer for the F-15 Intelligent Flight Control Systems project before becoming a project manager in the Intelligent Systems technology area.

Up-and-Coming Honorable Mentions

Honorable mentions in the Up-and-Coming category include: Carmen Arevalo, Paul Aristo, Ethan Bauman, Eric Beker, Shedrick Bessent, Glenn Bever, C.J. Bixby, Jonathan Brown, Gustavo CarreƱo, Alexis Castelazo, Vince Chacon, Tony Chen, Matt Cheung, Bob Clarke, Brent Cobleigh, Dan Crowley, Frank Cutler, Ryan Dibley, David Dowdell, Tracy Edmonson, Kim Ennix, Russ Franz, Mike Frederickson, Gemma Fregoso, Van Tran Freischer, Robert Garcia, Bob Gardener, Monica Garvin, Tony Ginn, Leslie Gong, Craig Griffith, George Grimshaw, Ronnie Haraguchi, Claudia Herrera, Tom Horn, Larry Hudson, John Huffman, Tom Jones, John Kelly, Theresa Kline, William Ko, Tim Krall, Sunil Kukreja, Sirell Lane, William Lokos, Jessica Lux, Regina Maddock, Heather Maliska, David McAllister, David McBride, Jerry McKee, Chris Miller, James Mills, Mark Mungelsdorf, Larry Myers, Jeff Nelms, David Neufeld, Denise Otra O'Neil, Anthony Piazza, Marlin Pickett, Robert Quinn, Ron Ray, Lance Richards, Jack Ryan, John Saltzman, Rosemary Sanchez, Steve Schmidt, Larry Schuster, Mark Skoog, Mark Smith, Clint St. John, Craig Stephens, Jim Stewart, Pat Stoliker, Daryl Townsend, Roy Tryon, Casey Tull, David Voracek, Randy Wagner, Alan Wallace, Mary Whelan, Peggy Willis-Hayes, David Wright and Michael Young.