NASA People

Center Snapshot: Kim Keith
Kim Keith. Image above: Kim Keith, a programmer and analyst in the Systems Engineering Directorate, volunteered at Tedx NASA at the Ferguson Center in Newport News. NASA/Sean Smith

Denise Lineberry

Kim Keith tried out for American Idol in 2008. “I didn’t make it very far,” she said. But why limit herself to America when her efforts at NASA Langley go global?

When she graduated from Christopher Newport University as a biology major, she knew that she wanted to work at a place where she could make a positive impact on the environment.

That’s why she started her career at NASA Langley as a DEVELOP student in the fall of 2006 as a team lead for the global public health and international air quality teams.

“At DEVELOP, I started learning about Earth Observations and their impact on decision making around the world,” Keith said. “All of these things seemed to perfectly position my skill set and knowledge base to do exactly what I am doing now with the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS).”

After college graduation, she was asked to remain a part of DEVELOP as a consultant. She supported the start-up of the systems engineering office of CEOS, led by Stephen Sandford and Brian Killough.

“My DEVELOP mentors taught me a lot about NASA and really transformed me from a student into a young professional,” Keith said.

In September of 2008, her efforts continued as a full-time employee with Science Systems and Applications Incorporated (SSAI). She has since become a member of the Langley Emerging Professionals Committee (LEPC) and she is also involved in the Center Internal Communications Initiative (CICI).

Her efforts reach far and wide. “CEOS is an organization consisting of 28 space agencies and 20 other international organizations that coordinate civil space-borne Earth observations, enhancing international coordination and data exchange and optimizing societal benefit,” she said.

She helps to manage a database, developed the Web site and trains others to use it, creates outreach materials and researches Earth observations from space in a variety of fields. “Because my job is very broad and requires such flexibility, I have acquired many new skills while supporting CEOS,” Keith said.

She has traveled to meet colleagues in Norway, Brazil and Germany. “It is an opportunity of a lifetime,” she said.

Her opportunities are not confined to her work as a programmer and analyst at Langley. She has been acting for about two years. She has appeared in local Cox Communications commercials, a 700-club reenactment, several corporate training videos and an independent film. She is also going to appear in a few Dominion Power commercials.

As a singer, she has performed in bands, choirs and as a soloist. “Last year I performed at the SSAI Winter Gala, and will do so again this year,” Keith said.

She also spent a year traveling with an inspirational performing group. “We volunteered with Boys & Girls’ Club, homeless shelters, churches and retirement homes, performing drama and dance acts,” she said. “I’ve performed drama and dance in front of 20,000 teenagers!”

Her experiences have placed her in front of many audiences and taken her many places, but Keith is contented where she is. When her father retired from the Army, she settled in Newport News. “I’ve visited some big cities like Boston, New York, DC and San Francisco, and really love experiencing city life,” she said. “Perhaps I’ll move to a big city for a little while, but I think I will always come back to Hampton Roads. It’s just home.”

She still wonders if she has done enough.

“I just want to be able to look back on my life knowing that I inspired, encouraged, strengthened, supported and loved as many people as possible. I want to be an excellent employee, wife, mom, friend and colleague,” Keith said. “I want to make one small difference in the life of every person that I meet. I feel like, if I accomplish this, I will have accomplished more for the world, than if I tried to get something done all by myself.”

She just purchased her first home and is spending a lot of time fixing it up. But when she needs a quick get-a-way, she gets on the back of a motorcycle and rides her cares away. “It’s such a nice way to enjoy the scenery and have some me-time,” she said.

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