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Center Snapshot: Brooke Anderson
Brooke Anderson. Image above: After being told in college that aerospace engineering was a "dead career," Brooke Anderson finds that it's very much alive in her work at NASA Langley. Photo credit: NASA/Sean Smith

By: Amy Johnson

How a western girl ended up on the East Coast is a question that Brooke Anderson has a hard time explaining.

But her career at NASA Langley -- that explanation comes easily.

"It's kind of surreal," said Anderson. "I was a little kid in Colorado looking at the stars. I never in a million years would have thought I'd work for NASA."

But she does, and has for the past 12 years.

After getting a physics degree at Western Washington University, she moved to Virginia to pursue a graduate degree in mechanical engineering with the Joint Institute of the Advancement of Flight Science (JIAFS) program offered through George Washington University.

After receiving her degree, Anderson was offered a job at Langley and has been in Virginia ever since.

Though she began as a computer programmer, Anderson has taken on several positions in different areas, which she considers a bonus.

"I like that NASA offers me the opportunity to work in different disciplines and projects," she said.

Anderson is the mission systems engineer for the Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment (SAGE III) on ISS project. SAGE III is an earth science instrument that will be mounted on the International Space Station to study ozone, aerosols and other constituents in the atmosphere. Anderson develops requirements, performs trade studies and any other analyses needed for the project.

Before Sage III, Anderson first worked on the Mars airplane, and then she transferred into the Structures and Thermal Systems Branch, where she performed thermal analysis, orbital mechanics and ionized space radiation for numerous projects and proposals. In 2002, she was awarded a Silver Snoopy Award for her radiation analysis work on space suits, something that she considers one of her most memorable experiences.

Eventually, she hopes to work as a mission operations manager for an Earth observing mission.

She likes to stay busy and be multidisciplinary. In college, she was interested in so many things that she minored in four areas: math, chemistry, astronomy and East Asian studies.

She was going to major in aerospace engineering, but her college advisor told her it was a "dead field," a comment she looks back on and laughs about.

Outside of work, she does a lot to keep occupied. Anderson has a twin sister who lives in California, whom she speaks with daily and travels to visit. When asked if they were much alike, Anderson said, "We are complete opposites of each other, otherwise known as mirror-imaged twins."

"She's into English and I work at NASA," she said laughing. "She's right-handed and I'm left-handed, and she always makes fun of my spelling."

After college graduation Anderson and her sister went backpacking through Europe, an experience she says made her the person she is today. She has traveled extensively since then.

"Traveling around the world has helped me appreciate different cultures and recognize the beauty throughout the world and at home," she said.

Having grown up snow skiing in Colorado, Anderson has always liked to stay active. Anderson plays volleyball, kayaks, runs and occasionally races her Subaru WRX. On Memorial Day weekend, she rode a jet-ski for the first time. Once she figured out it was easier to maneuver the faster she went, she got the hang of it pretty quick.

As for her thoughts on Virginia, she has warmed up to the area, just not to the humidity.

She has enjoyed adjusting to the east side of the country. And to NASA Langley.

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