Mathematics and Space Science Research
With a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and computer science, Nancy Laubenthal works on a host of fascinating scientific research projects as a computer programming manager at Goddard Space
Flight Center in Maryland. “I’m very happy in this job,” says Nancy, who has been at Goddard for 13 years. “There’s a lot of professionalism, trust, and flexibility in terms of my work schedule. I like the science research, and, in my particular job, I don’t have a chance to get bored because I do so many different things.”
For example, the laboratory she works in has been developing the Energetic Gamma Ray Experiment Telescope, which orbits the earth collecting gamma rays—energetic light rays observable only outside the earth’s atmosphere. Using data that the satellite beams to ground stations, Nancy works with scientists to develop data analysis methods that will help them determine the age, temperature, structure, composition, and other characteristics of the gamma ray sources. They will also investigate the origin and nature of pulsars, quasars, neutron stars, black holes, and star and galaxy explosions.
Nancy began as a programmer and moved up to her current managerial position at Goddard five years ago. A NASA-run research center, Goddard comprises a sprawling complex of buildings in a woodsy setting outside Washington, DC. Nancy oversees computing and programming for the High Energy Astrophysics Laboratory, which consists of about 175 scientists, engineers, computer programmers, and clerical staff. She manages four programmers and a data technician, in addition to about 20 independent contractors.
Although not trained in astrophysics, Nancy has learned a great deal about the way data are collected and analyzed in this field. “If the programmer understands the data, he or she can sometimes help the scientists to determine how they want to analyze their data,” she notes. “The programmer can suggest innovative ways to do things, and the scientist might say, ‘Oh yeah, that’s a great idea, I want to look at the data in that way.'”
A native of St. Louis, Nancy attended Grover Cleveland High School and went on to Washington University, where she received her bachelor’s degree. During the summer before her senior year in college, she landed a position at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration working on data archiving. Upon graduating, she was offered jobs at NOAA, McDonnell-Douglas, and Goddard.
Among the ten managers in her laboratory, Nancy is the only woman. She enjoys her job because she has a great deal of managerial responsibility but is still very much involved in the work at hand. “I like being close enough to the technical aspects so that I can sometimes ‘get my hands dirty’ in the work.”
This brochure was published in 1991, so some information may be out-of-date.