In Our Own Words – Andrea

In our Own Words

 

Andrea Hsu Schouten

“At Aerospace I have some wonderful mentors who’ve taken the time to share their experiences with me and offer opportunities to transfer my skills outside of a focused discipline. I am encouraged to use and adapt my area of expertise in chemistry and laser technology to benefit CubeSat missions as the propulsion lead.”

Applying Unique Perspectives in the Workplace and the Arts

Trying new things is second nature for Dr. Andrea Hsu Schouten, senior member of the technical staff, Propulsion Science Department, Space Materials Lab, Engineering and Technology Group.

Whether it’s the opportunity to apply her training in chemistry and chemical engineering to new technical areas or identifying the logistics needs for one of the corporation’s research facilities, it’s all about exploring the boundaries to create something new or improved.

Andrea obtained her Ph.D. in physical chemistry, specializing in laser and optical diagnostics in reacting flows, mainly combustion. She joined Aerospace in 2010 as a member of the technical staff and has supported a variety of projects and technologies. These include not only projects that build directly on her professional expertise, such as performing diagnostics on rocket combustion flow fields and developing testing laboratories, but also projects that venture outside of her focus area such as the AeroCube 8 CubeSat mission.

AeroCube 8 is one in a series of small satellites also known as CubeSats. CubeSats were initially designed as simplified research vehicles for university students to test, build, and explore space systems in a real-world setting. Over the past several years, the technology has evolved and scientists and engineers have rapidly improved their capabilities.

AeroCube 8 is a technology demonstration of a novel electric propulsion thruster aboard the tiny satellite, which weighs only two kilograms. The thruster itself is a postage-stamp-sized unit that enables CubeSats to accomplish orbital maneuvers such as station keeping, formation flying, and orbital transfer, and is potentially scalable to normal-sized satellites.

Andrea is currently project manager and propulsion lead for the AC-8 CubeSat mission. “I enjoy working on AC-8 CubeSat because it gives me the chance to work on cutting-edge technologies and to collaborate with people in many different fields,” she says.

Open-Door Policy

Aerospace offers tremendous learning opportunities and Andrea has found her colleagues to be very supportive. “I haven’t met anyone here who isn’t willing to spend time explaining how they solved a particular issue or to share their expertise in a certain field. Aerospace offers a network of experts in nearly all areas of science and engineering. The relationships that I’ve formed with people through different programs have proven beneficial as I continue to establish myself in the technical community,” says Andrea.

Aerospace is Unique

Although she worked for other companies before arriving here, Andrea says she has found that Aerospace offers something other companies don’t. “This company is an ideal mix of fundamental scientific research, applied research and engineering, and program-specific support. It offers a mix of two very distinct worlds—the practical engineering, problem-solving side, and the fundamental, scientific research side,” she explains.

The best part about working at Aerospace, says Andrea, is the availability to work on all types of programs. “I’m encouraged to take on these different roles and responsibilities, which keeps things exciting for me. I look forward to expanding my research portfolio to include more commercial work and more program-related support work. I may explore the Aerospace Rotation Program, which would give me a different view of how Aerospace operates.”

Editor’s note: The Aerospace Rotation Program is a voluntary program offering regular, full-time employees the opportunity to rotate from their current position to another one in a different organization for up to one year. Being part of the rotation program can accelerate an employee’s learning, enhance personal and professional growth, provide a change of pace, increase their network, and increase career possibilities.

Andrea is also eager to represent the corporation at various career fairs and to share her experience with those trying to decide where to apply to for a job. “I tell students who are thinking about coming here that they should think of this place as a mix of applied science and fundamental research. I also encourage them to maintain expertise in the technical area that they have been formally trained, but at the same time be open to projects outside their field.”

Outside Interests

For Andrea, exploring new areas and succeeding at them doesn’t stop with her professional responsibilities at Aerospace. In her off hours, she serves as president of the International Society of Scratchboard Artists. A passion of hers since about 2004, Andrea has become an award-winning scratchboard artist and shows her work in galleries and competitions nationwide. Scratchboard is a rigid white clayboard covered with a thin layer of black India ink. The art is created by removing the layer of black India ink via sharp tools such as an X-Acto knife, revealing the white clayboard underneath.

In summing up her artistic passion and technical career, Andrea says, “scratchboarding requires a high level of attention to detail but there are no hard lines, which is reflective of my career at Aerospace. To a large extent, you determine the boundaries by your own interests, perspective, and ambitions.”

 

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