Queenie Morse is a 2004 graduate of Embry-Riddle’s BS in Aerospace Engineering program and a 2012 graduate of the MS in Mechanical Engineering program. As a student, Queenie completed an internship as a Space Station Systems Engineer Intern with The Boeing Company at NASA Johnson Space Center. During her time as a student, she also worked for Siemens Westinghouse Power Corporation and FlightSafety International. Additionally, Queenie attained experience before attending ERAU as a member of the United States Navy. Upon graduation, Queenie graduated and accepted a position with Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, where she worked for several years. Today, she is a Launch Vehicle Engineer with United Launch Alliance and has hopes of one day becoming an astronaut.
How did your internship with Boeing at NASA help you to identify your career focus and/or goals?
I would say that my most memorable experience at NASA was getting to work alongside astronauts. It was a goal of mine to one day submit my own astronaut application. I worked on a project with Eileen Collins (the first female shuttle commander) and had a chance to speak with her on a personal level. We spoke about what the application process entailed, and she encouraged me to apply multiple times and that most astronauts apply several times before making the cut. We even spoke about what it was like for her to juggle being an astronaut with being a wife and a mom.
In addition to Ms. Collins, astronaut Steve Robinson also gave me memorable advice. He told me to structure a fulfilling career and a personal life for myself and let becoming an astronaut be a bonus and not a necessity. He said that in addition to skills, the selection board looks for well-rounded and fun individuals. In so many words, he was telling me to work hard but still have some fun and enjoy life. After all, according to him, the astronaut candidate interview consists of only one question, “So…tell us about yourself.” I have recalled his advice many times in the last 10 years when making career decisions.
How have the contacts and networking you did on your internship and subsequent jobs been a benefit to you in your career as an Aerospace Engineer?
In addition to working alongside astronauts during my internship, I gained valuable contacts while at NASA. One notable contact was the mission director for 30 years (now retired) at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory. We have kept in contact for many years since my internship ended in 2003. He has been a great mentor and a great reference whenever I needed it. I recently submitted my first astronaut candidate package, and he eagerly agreed to serve as a reference for me. This will be a very valuable reference because he knows most of the people in the astronaut selection office. I am very honored that I gained this connection during my internship at NASA.
How do you feel about students continuing their education directly after completing an undergraduate degree versus gaining experience in the field before entering into a graduate program?
I found working as a full-time engineer and simultaneously pursuing masters courses to be a challenge. It took a lot longer for me to graduate since I traveled for work and I could only take one class at a time and sometimes no classes at all. Working in the aerospace industry and supporting launches can be very demanding (but rewarding) at times. There are instances of heavy overtime and travel which is based on launch schedules and/or unpredictable launch delays.
If I could do it again, I would eagerly choose the 5-year bachelor/masters track and get it done all at once. Because of work demands, it took nearly four years to complete my masters degree. However, it was nice that my company paid for my masters education!
What are your plans for the future?
I have now been working in the aerospace community for nearly 10 years. As a long-time employee with Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, I had the pleasure of working in Los Angeles, Florida and Europe. I have been lucky enough to land jobs building and launching payloads and now rockets. I recently started a new position with United Launch Alliance (ULA). ULA builds and launches rockets. It feels like all my hard work and studies definitely paid off. What better jobs for an aerospace engineer than to build and launch payloads and rockets! Well, I guess that depends on if I am selected by the astronaut selection office. I recently submitted my first astronaut application, and I am eagerly awaiting the results!