National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Glenn Research Center

Kristin L. Uhmeyer

Kristin L. Uhmeyer

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, MA
B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, Minor in Writing, June 2009

2009 NASA Glenn Academy
Operations-Logistics Manager

2008 NASA Glenn Academy
Research Associate
Project: Radio-Frequency Mass Gauging for Cryogenic Propellants in Low Gravity

Philosophy

Michael Griffin gave a speech in 2007 in which he talked about how people justify expenditures for projects with practical “Acceptable Reasons.” Yet, he said what really drives people to accomplish these feats are “Real Reasons,” those intangibles that are more important. Many things that I have done at MIT and in internships reflect my Acceptable Reasons. My inspirations, though, are the Real Reasons: to be part of exploration, to develop new things that have never existed, to know that I have advanced the knowledge of the world with my work.

I have always been fascinated with spaceflight. My grandparents lived in Florida, so I visited Kennedy Space Center several times. If we visited them when there was a shuttle launch, we would stand outside, and look through the leaves of the orange trees for the trail of smoke streaking through the sky. My brother and I procured a cardboard refrigerator box, and we cut some windows and added some wings. We painted it black and white and our lowly box had become an orbiter, ready to blast off into the abyss. When I was in high school, I participated in a program called Presidential Classroom, and we visited Goddard. On our tour, I saw engineers putting Mylar on a satellite, and I immediately thought, That is the kind of job that I want.

During the summer of 2008, I participated in the NASA Academy at Glenn as a Research Assistant. I saw how the program was to train the future leaders of the aerospace industry, so that someday we will do great things together. Everyone at Glenn was inspired by Apollo landing on the moon when they were young. Well, it is my generation’s turn: to go beyond. My Real Reasons: I want to stand on the shoulders of the giants before us, and figure out how we’ll continue to explore.

Work Experience, Research, and Hobbies

During my freshman year at MIT, I was involved with a learning community for freshmen at MIT called Terrascope. This program presents students with a big, unsolvable world problem that they must come up with solutions for, then tasks the students to build a museum exhibit and the class visits a related site during spring break. For me, our year’s problem was the threat of tsunamis on costal regions and islands. I learned a lot about early detection methods using satellites and buoys, and we traveled to Valdivia, Chile, where a major tsunami occurred in 1960. I stayed involved as an advisor to the program and was able to travel to New Orleans and Iceland in subsequent years.

Following my freshman year at MIT, I worked as an intern at Northrop Grumman Norden Systems in Norwalk, CT, which builds and designs radar products. During that time, I created a simulation of radar behavior over water, which was used to predict performance for government proposals. I had a quite different experience the following summer, when I worked for Vehicle Design Summit, a student group trying to design, build, and distribute extremely efficient cars through developing a consortium of students around the world. Even though everyone wanted to build a car, there were many different varying opinions and worldviews about how exactly that should be done and what was most important in that process. Figuring out even how to move planning or designs forward could be a challenge, but was very rewarding when accomplished.

In the summer of 2008, I was a Research Assistant to Dr. Greg Zimmerli at Glenn, working on a project to figure out what the fuel level of a tank is using radio waves, matching the resonant mode frequencies to the correct fill level. I enjoyed my academy experience so much that I am returning this year as the Operations and Logistics Manager.

For my senior design project, I worked in a group of 30-40 undergraduate students to design and begin building a small satellite that we are hoping to launch within 2-3 years. The satellite has an electric propulsion system and will have a high amount of maneuverability for a ~50kg satellite. I worked on the wiring harness, as well as the design for the sensors and actuators of the attitude control system.

I began diving when I was eight or nine years old and have continued since then. I was the captain of the team this past year. The sport is as much a mental exercise as a physical one, as diving from high and higher platforms and executing more advanced dives requires no small amount of courage, but the feeling of soaring into the air and cleanly entering the water is exhilarating. I enjoy skiing, sailing, and being outside. I also greatly enjoy writing.

Educational and Professional Objectives

My experience with the NASA Academy in 2008 made me realize that I want to be one of the leaders in the aerospace industry, for which I currently want to learn more about systems engineering. Beyond graduation and managing the 2009 Academy, I will begin work at Raytheon in Sudbury, Massachusetts, working on systems architecture for radar systems. After gaining some experience working in industry, I plan to return to school and get a master’s degree. I hope to be able to positively impact aerospace industry and make my own mark on the world.