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Betsy Pugel

Science/Data Team
Senior Engineer
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Tell us about your work/research. What kinds of things do you do?

I specialize in the interface between technology, engineering and science. In looking back at the past 15+ years that I've been at NASA, I'm always poking around at small signals--electronic, optical, chemical, or biological. I've enjoyed many different roles at NASA, including working on scientific instruments at a wide range of levels-it has all been an adventure and growth experience! I've worked on the Hubble Space Telescope, the Space Shuttle, the Orion Capsule, Mars missions and missions all around the solar system. I've been an engineer, scientist and manager. I go where the interesting problems are.

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

When I was in middle school, I thought I'd be an artist or a poet. I realized in high school that physics was very much like art/poetry and was creative in a way that was surprising to me. When I took my first physics class, I was hooked. I landed at NASA serendipitously and never looked back.

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

Many people have influenced me--my instructors in high school, college and graduate school, my mentors at work, artists and friends. Nature has also been a strong influence--I marvel at the complexity and diversity that is around us.

What element of your work/study do you think is the most fascinating?

Thinking about how to approach a hard problem and having the courage to dig in, motivate others to join me on the adventure and face it head on.

What other jobs led you to your current career?

My current career came from taking a chance--I came to NASA to see where I wanted my future to go. I was glad that I took that chance--it was very different from what I had planned for my future. Being open to experience led me to where I am now.

What are your degrees and certifications?

Bachelor of Science in Physics from University of Michigan - Ann Arbor; Doctorate in Physics - University of Maryland - College Park

What are your hobbies?

Playing cello, hiking, fishing, growing my own food, reading.

How did you get involved with the Ocean Exploration Trust?

I was asked to participate as a member of the previous recovery team on the R/V Falkor last year.

What advice would you give someone who wants to have a career like yours?

Be patient and be willing to work hard for your dreams. It can sometimes take a while in whatever stage of life you're in for something to work out, so be willing to be patient and stick it out through the tough times, knowing that good times will eventually come if you keep at it.

Accept imperfection. There will be people who understand you and people who don't. There will be good and bad times in your career. Let all the things that you call "negative" be a teacher to you-ask: What can this experience teach me? What can I learn from this?