Momentum Member Spotlight – March 2012
AIAA Congratulates Dr. Jeffery Puschell
By Duane Hyland, AIAA Communications
AIAA has selected AIAA Associate Fellow Dr. Jeffery Puschell for its Member Spotlight for March, 2012. Puschell is a Principal Engineering Fellow at Raytheon Space & Airborne Systems, El Segundo, CA.
Puschell joined AIAA in 2005, and since that time has been very active in the Institute, at both the section and national level. He is the Chair-Elect of the Los Angeles Section, and will take over as Chair of the section in May 2012. In addition to his Section, Puschell has also been very active in the Institute’s Technical Activities Committee (TAC), as a member of the Space Systems Technical Committee (TC), where he served as Chair from 2009 to 2010 and Vice Chair from 2008 to 2009. Puschell is also an active member of the Space Sensors TC. He also chaired the Space Systems Technical Committee’s Awards Subcommittee from 2007 through 2011. Under Puschell’s guidance, the Space Systems TC earned the Space and Missile Group TC of the Year Award. He has also chaired the SPACE conference. Recently, he became a Deputy Director of the Space and Missile Group.
Outside of AIAA, Puschell chairs the Industrial Advisory Board for the NSF Center for Metamaterials. He is also a member of NASA’s PACE Science Definition Team, as well as serving as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Applied Remote Sensing. Puschell also chairs the SPIE Remote Sensing System Engineering Conference. In academia, Puschell is a member of the Visiting Committee for the Physical Sciences at the University of Chicago, and he is currently the Raytheon Professor of Practice at the California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo, CA.
When asked what inspired him to enter the aerospace profession, Puschell reminisced about a cold, dark Wisconsin night in the 1960s, and told this story: “I emerged from my parent’s car and noticed the stars – perhaps for the first time – and was simply awestruck. It was an instant fascination that I still carry today.” He went on to explain that like many of his generation he became fascinated by the 1960s space program, and that he watched “every manned U.S. launch on television.”
His early love of space, his interest in the space program, and the encouragement provided by parents and teachers led Puschell to establish a 7th grade “Space Club,” of which he was President. The club’s main activities were building Estes model rocket kits, and launching the resultant rockets, and building telescopes from Edmund kits and using those ‘scopes to track comets. Puschell laughed slightly and stated that “Mr. Spock was our hero.” This love of space, and the club’s organized activities, led Puschell to further develop an interest in space, and that interest led to him entering many science fairs as a teenager and winning many awards, including awards from the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and NASA. Another hobby of Puschell’s was collecting an “amazingly large set of documents from NASA on almost every one of their space programs ranging from Apollo to Nimbus to the IMP satellites.” Those documents stayed in Puschell’s possession for years, but he later donated them to a public library in Copperas Cove, Texas, where his wife’s grandmother was the librarian.
Looking back on his career in aerospace, Puschell said that it was difficult to pick out a favorite moment. One of his favorite moments was “watching the flawless launch of the Suomi NPP Satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base in October, 2011.” He stated that he was the first Chief Engineer for one of the instruments onboard the spacecraft and that he took over as Chief Scientists on one of the other instruments a bit later in the mission. When asked what made this launch memorable, he answered “quite a bit of my space career was riding on that satellite and so it was deeply satisfying to see that bird go up in near perfection on a splendid, cold night just like that night in Wisconsin so many years before.” Puschell continued, explaining: “Later, when the NPP satellite was named for one of my personal heroes, Vern Suomi, who invented the weather satellite at the University of Wisconsin in the early 1960’s, it made my recollection of that moment of perfect launch even sweeter.”
When the discussion turned to the future of aerospace, Puschell was optimistic. “I think that aerospace is going to continue to do very well. Like many industries, it is cyclical, but from a big picture perspective I see the trend continuing toward a globalization of aerospace capability, in both space and airborne applications. That's going to create a number of challenges for the US, as we face growing competition across the full spectrum of aerospace activity from commercial aviation to space.” He continued: “However, I see that as a good thing! We need to pull up our socks and respond to that challenge, in part by using the unsurpassed creativity and energy of the US commercial enterprise to help make our aerospace sector more competitive through increased efficiency that comes from focus and simplified but thorough processes.”
When asked what he would tell an audience of college students who were studying aerospace and about to enter the profession, Puschell gave succinct advice: “Find the right opportunity that gives you a chance to follow your dream! Be patient, shop around if necessary! Try internships with different companies to discover what you really like.” But he admitted that the audience would probably run into difficulties, especially given the current state of affairs within in industry, but that he would counsel them: “If you run into challenges and disappointment, don’t give up, and most of all, stay strong!”
When asked what he would tell students in high school who were contemplating majoring in aerospace science in college, Puschell advised that they should “follow their dream with passion and focus, and that they should find something that they love, even if it wasn’t aerospace, so that they could spend the rest of their life doing something they enjoy.” However, he did point out that if the students did enter the aerospace profession, they would “find themselves well rewarded in ways that they could not even anticipate today. Perhaps even the chance to realize childhood dreams that started on starlit nights long ago.”
AIAA congratulates Dr. Puschell for his many contributions to AIAA, and for his positive outlook on the future of aerospace, as well as for his selection as the AIAA member spotlight for March 2012.