Momentum Member Spotlight – June 2013
AIAA Congratulates Aerojet’s Dr. Brian Pomeroy
By Duane Hyland, AIAA Communications
The AIAA Member Spotlight for the month of June 2013, shines on Dr. Brian Pomeroy, Combustion Analyst, at Aerojet. Brian has been an AIAA member since 2002. At Aerojet, Brian is responsible for assisting in liquid rocket engine combustion tests and performance analysis.
Like so many other AIAA members, Brian’s interest in aerospace began as a child, growing up on the east coast of the United States. Brian first remembered a trip he took as a boy; as being one of the main influences on his desire to enter the aerospace community: “I made a trip to the National Air and Space Museum where I was captivated by the technology and the ability to fly airplanes and launch rockets into space. The concept seemed very foreign and exciting as it was not something that was an everyday task.” “As I grew older, I continued to expand my knowledge in the aerospace and space exploration fields to learn what it had to offer to individuals as well as society at large. I came to see the field of aerospace as something I was genuinely interested in pursuing.”
Besides his trip to the Air and Space Museum, and his research into the field, Brian also credited his parents as being motivators for his decision to enter the field of aerospace. “Through the years, my parents were probably the most influential people who inspired me to consider aerospace as my life’s work. They continually encouraged me to learn more and took me to all the museums, air shows, and anything related to technology that I had an interest in attending. They encouraged me through school and always urged me to ‘work hard’ and ‘stick with it’ when the times were hard.” “Besides my parents, I had numerous teachers and professors that continually stimulated my learning.” Brian closed this part of the conversation by confessing - “I can’t really come up with one memory that was any more powerful than another, when it comes to my earliest influences on aerospace, but the many hours I spent at the Air and Space Museum, and visiting the Kennedy Space Center and the Goddard Space Flight Center really standout.”
“I recently graduated from Purdue University in 2012, after completing my Master’s and Doctoral degrees, and since I only completed my undergraduate degree at Penn State University in 2006, I haven’t had a lot of involvement yet in aerospace that wasn’t directly linked to my academic work,” said Brian when asked about his favorite career moment. “One my favorite projects, was during my time at Penn State as an undergraduate student. Penn State teamed up with NASA Wallops Flight Facility and we designed, built, and analyzed the data from a Terrier-Orion sounding rocket launch. The program was done in conjunction with students from three universities in Norway and ultimately culminated with a launch from Andøya Rocket Range located in Andesnes, Norway. This project allowed me to use the engineering skills I was learning in the classroom and actually use them to design and build the structure and other mechanical components.” Brian went on to say “that project gave me the necessary edge to be accepted into the co-op program at Goddard Space Flight Center and it set me on the path I have taken so far.” He continued: “As an undergraduate student and for a year between undergrad and graduate school, I cooped, and later worked, at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in the propulsion branch. While there, I worked on two different satellite programs, the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). With both of these programs, I was able to get involved with the design and the integration of the spacecraft, which have both successfully launched and are performing wonderfully. In graduate school, I worked on combustion instabilities of gas-centered swirl coaxial injectors, similar to those on the NK-33 and RD-180 Russian engines. Now working full time at Aerojet, I have been tasked to help with the research and development of Aerojet’s liquid booster engine for NASA’s SLS rocket.”
When asked what advice he had for those in college who are pursuing an aerospace degree, Brian stated: “My biggest advice is to work hard. Engineering is not always easy, but good, hard work will allow one to push through the hard times and there is nothing better than seeing the final product work like expected.” He continued, suggesting: “students should find a hands-on project to get involved with while studying. AIAA has lots of opportunities with the Design/Build/Fly, Can Sat, or other competitions. Many universities have other projects of all sorts that will allow a college student to gain the hands on experience. While the theory learned in class is very important, one of the biggest things I have learned while working on these projects and in the laboratory during graduate school was that it does not always work like the theory. Small changes need to be made from the theory to get to a design that will work and perform as expected. While working through school, look for scholarships such as those through AIAA that will help reduce your financial burden and allow you to concentrate on studies, extra-curricular activities to reduce any stress of a side job.”
For individuals graduating from college and entering the profession, Brian pointed out the critical need for older, established engineers, to help the new generation, advising: “Find (or be) a mentor in industry either through a project, co-op or internship. Having a mentor in the industry has given me much needed practical knowledge and experience when I have questions. The theory learned in school is a good base, but the more you can learn from older industry peers the quicker you can learn how stuff is designed and made. The passing on of this knowledge allows a new generation of engineers to avoid the mistakes that were made many years ago. Older members need to recognize that this takes a bit of their time, but it is worth while and important for them to teach younger engineers in order to grow the new generation to have the same abilities as them and advance our industry in the future.”
Lastly, realizing that the future of aerospace is still toiling away in the high school classrooms of today, Brian offered these words of wisdom: “Work hard in high school and find a college or university program where you feel comfortable and can do well. If possible, get involved with some hands on activities (such as Science Olympiads, robotics competitions and endless other possibilities) and apply what you are learning in high school science classes. Once you have arrived at college, find an activity to become involved in to have fun outside of the classroom. Always be on the lookout for scholarships before attending school and while in college to reduce financial stress. AIAA has many opportunities for scholarships available to students once attending a college or university.”
AIAA congratulates Brian Pomeroy on his selection as the AIAA Member Spotlight for June 2013, and wishes him the best in his future endeavors!