Alicia Dwyer Cianciolo

Current Position: Aerospace engineer at NASA
Alicia Dwyer Cianciolo
Highlight The challenge. Every day there is a new one. We are solving problems that have never been solved before.
September 8, 2007Her job: Aerospace engineer, NASA
Describe what you do in your current work situation? To explain what I do, assume for a minute that you have developed an instrument to do something at you need to get it there. I am part of a large team at NASA that can do the job. Lets say your instrument is a camera and you want to use to take pictures of the planet. We design the satellites to hold your camera and we put them in orbit around other planets like Mars. Or say your instrument requires soil samples on Mars. We find out how many samples you would need and where you would like to take them and we design a rover (mobile) or a lander (immobile) that will go where you want and take the samples you want.
Why did you choose engineering? I grew up on a ranch in Nebraska, and though I admired my parents for their occupation and I loved living in the country, I knew that I did not want to follow in their foot steps. In school I focused on what I was good at. I was terrible at spelling and writing but good math and science.
Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have? Creighton University, Omaha NE, Bachelors Degree in Physics The George Washington University, Washington DC; Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering.
What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work? I have worked on the 2001 Mars Odyssey and 2005 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter missions and the 2003 Mars Exploration Rover missions. I am currently working on the Mars 2009 Science Laboratory Rover mission. I also participate in studies to determine the technologies that need to developed to enable humans to land on Mars.
What do you like best about being an engineer? The challenge. Every day there is a new one. We are solving problems that have never been solved before.
Please tell us a little about your family. Recently my husband was transferred from Virginia to Missouri and thanks to technology and NASA’s commitment to flexibility in the workplace, I am able to continue to work for NASA from my home. I live in Missouri with my husband and two daughters ages 1 and 3.
What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering? It takes a LOT of hard work, dedication and persistence but it pays off every time I see another new picture from Mars.