What is your role within the George H.W. Bush Combat development Complex?
Research Engineer (RE) for Tech Area 4 (Air-Ground Coordinated Autonomy for Off-Road Mobility)
B.S. Applied Mathematics from Chadron State College
M.S. Computational Mathematics from Colorado State University
Ph. D. Electrical and Computer Engineering from Colorado State University
Where are you from?
“I grew up in Nebraska on a small family farm and horse ranch. Although I come from an agricultural background, my father was a high school Math and Computer Science teacher and my mother was an accountant and CFO of a small company. From this perspective, my upbringing shaped my desires in my career. Math (and education in general) was touted by my parents as a powerful tool for a successful life, and working on machinery was a necessity for the farm. For me, this translates to the present day as research and implementation, for autonomous systems.
What is a project or accomplishment you’re proud of?
I take pride in all of my accomplishments but try to remain forward-looking. That said, I am usually the proudest of my most current accomplishments. In recent months I have had the opportunity to develop my project management skills, and mentorship of new hires and students. Since I started at the BCDC, I am proud to see the impacts of my presence. Our rather large project group number – on the order of 20 Principal Investigators (PI), Research Engineers (RE) and students combined – has become much more cohesive. I can see the reduction in the stress level for field tests and demonstrations. TA4 has hired three REs since I was onboarded, and I have made efforts to make sure each of their onboarding processes and integration into the group was smooth. Additionally, my collaborations with students and PI’s have been fruitful in research and working relationships.
“While I know that Hangar 7048 is not my personal toybox, it does give me that giddy Christmas morning feeling every time I open the hangar door and see our research platforms. My mind races with all the technology to explore and potential sitting before me. I am grateful to feel that way every day when I arrive at work!”
What are your goals within BCDC?
As the first RE at the BCDC, I feel a sense of responsibility to make sure this venture prospers. I strive to make sure we are reaching our current research milestones and satisfying our stakeholders. Beyond that though, I want to be a contributing member to the BCDC by writing successful proposals, generating new work, and truly exemplifying the talent and potential in this fledgling enterprise. I want to see the BCDC grow and, in turn, grow with it.
How did you get to the BCDC?
Arriving at the BCDC as an RE was the end of an arduous job search after completing my Ph.D. Prior to the BCDC position, I was living in California, so Texas was not at the forefront of my search for a career in autonomous technologies. However, when I came across the posting, it spoke to me. I had spent a long time in academia through my degrees and working on numerous research contracts. Through the interview process, it became clear the RE position would entail two of my desires in a position, academic level novel research and a strong emphasis on hands-on implementation in relevant technology platforms. When the job offer came in from the BCDC, it put a smile on my face. I knew the next steps in my career would be exciting.
How long have you been at A&M? At BCDC?
I have been a RE at the BCDC since December 2019, just shy of 1.5 years.
Why are you interested in autonomy?
My initial research during my M.S. degree was focused on automated Sensor Resource Management funded through Sandia National Laboratories. After completing my M.S. research, it became more and more apparent that my research could be extended to the realm of complex autonomous systems. After all, multi-agent autonomous systems are a conglomeration of mobile sensor platforms that need to be managed intelligently. While this sprouted my interests from the academic side, it was my 2.5 years at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs working as a Researcher with the Multiple Unmanned Aerial Vehicles group that solidified my interest in the hands-on aspects, moving the algorithmic research developments to hardware testing platforms and troubleshooting system-specific issues.