Young Professional Profile April 2018
Name: Vanessa Aubuchon
Hometown: St. Martin, Mississippi
Currently lives: Smithfield, Virginia
- Bachelor of Science, Aerospace Engineering
- Mississippi State University, 2006
Employer: NASA Langley Research Center
Job Description: Currently, I am the Assistant Branch Head of the Flight Dynamics Branch. I also still find time to support research activities and specialize in atmospheric entry vehicle dynamics, as well as autonomous vehicle systems research. I also have held various project management and systems engineering roles for both the aeronautics and space sides of NASA.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you “grew up”?
As a young child, I was fascinated with sea life and wanted to be a marine biologist. As I got older, my focus turned toward space and airplanes. "How do those things fly?!" I turned space and airplanes into a career, but am still fascinated by marine life and the unexplored depths of our oceans.
How far can YOU see? Where do you see the aerospace industry 10–20 years from now?
There is obviously a boom going on now in private small start-up companies getting involved in both the aircraft and spacecraft market. In particular, their influence will push us toward realizing Urban Air Mobility (UAM) as an option for transportation and packages delivered by drones. Implementing these services will require the utilization and acceptance of machine learning (and AI, in general) into these autonomous systems. The desire for these new capabilities is the catalyst for faster transformation of our air traffic management and acceptance of new vehicle configurations, adaptive control systems, and reduced pilot operations (including unmanned). It is indeed an exciting time to be a part of the aerospace industry. In 20 years, we may well be taxiing around in small hybrid electric VTOL aircraft from skyscraper to skyscraper.
One insightful fact you want everyone to know:
In project reviews, I always ask the project presenters questions that I know they know the answer to. This not only builds their confidence, but encourages others in the room to ask questions — which is the point of the review!
Team leadership, flight dynamics, project management, wind tunnel, and flight testing
Cooking, yoga, volunteering, planning social gatherings, kayaking, hiking, traveling