Not all of our graduates start their academic career in our department. Brian Griffin received his BS in mechanical engineering before obtaining a graduate degree in aerospace engineering. The Ankeny native now resides in California and works as a flight operations engineer for NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center. He credits his success to his ability to work as part of a team – something he found in the community atmosphere of the aerospace engineering department and Iowa State University.
Describe a typical day. What are your job duties?
A typical day will vary greatly depending on assigned projects and their respective phases, however in general flight operations engineers work to identify, assign, and coordinate the tasks necessary to get a vehicle ready to conduct its mission. I most frequently work with project managers and chief engineers in determining the path of the project, but will also interface with research discipline engineers, aircraft avionics and mechanic technicians, aero-mechanical designers, as well as center management. During flight phases, the operations engineer is involved in a variety of activities highlighted with conducting mission briefings and serving as the mission controller providing ground-to-air communication during the mission. I will also serve as flight test engineer supporting the center research mission and project needs.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Aside from flying, most notably in our high performance aircraft, I would say my favorite part of the job is the interaction with everyone involved in making a mission a success and the excitement of sitting in the controller’s seat at the conclusion of a successful research flight!
What do you know now that you wish you had known as an undergrad?
The range of opportunities are so great there is really no end to what you can do and where you can go, but at the same time you can’t know and do it all. I’d stress the importance of working in teams, networking, and doing the very best you can at whatever the task may be.
How did you land your job?
During my master’s program I landed a student internship at Armstrong (then Dryden) working in the Flight Controls and Dynamics Branch. After completion, I returned and worked full time in that branch until transitioning to my current position as a Flight Operations Engineer.
What advice would you offer current aerospace engineering undergrads?
I received my BS in Mechanical Engineering before transitioning to the Aerospace Department for my graduate degree. In this light, the ability to dive into new, unfamiliar areas and use your engineering skills and mindset to be successful is key, as you will often find yourself seeking solutions to unfamiliar problems.