2008-2011 Florida Space Grant Fellow, “Gave me the toolset to do research” I am a first-generation college student and the only one in my family to pursue a doctorate degree. The Florida Space Grant program taught me to think about things differently and allowed me to graduate with a degree that my family could not afford to give me. I am very grateful for their assistance.
While at the University of Florida I participated in the Space Grant program from 2008 to 2011 and researched application-based control systems theory. Among other things, this led to working on satellite alignment clustering. More importantly however, it afforded me the opportunity to expand those applied theories into my dissertation. This essentially became a research platform that I used in real world applications.

Even before being accepted into the program, I knew that I wanted to pursue career in aerospace engineering, but the opportunities the Florida Space Grant provided really allowed me to explore my various interests more deeply through application-specific projects. Being involved with these projects enabled me to significantly narrow my focus and find areas where I could give valuable contributions to the field.

The Space Grant program helped me to investigate programs in a rich and thorough way by encouraging questions, individual investigations, conceptual exploration, and collaborative solutions that moved the “state of the art” forward. Although these things did not directly prepare me for later employment at NASA Armstrong, Boeing, and NASA Ames (where I am now), it was indirectly invaluable; it gave me the research tools to excel at each of those places because I learned both in theory and in the field. In a very real sense, I felt empowered to transform the conceptual into reality.

Possessing these tools has greatly benefited my current work as a flight test director for UAF (drones) traffic management. In conjunction with the FAA, we are developing technology to safely manage the anticipated increase in the use of these drones.
Ultimately, the Florida Space Grant program allowed me to pursue higher education instead of being forced to choose a career that was necessary to pay bills. I am a firm believer that you should pursue your interests and continually apply what you learn to other applications until you are employed in your field of interest.

Marcus Johnson
NASA Ames Research Center
Research Aerospace Engineer
UAS Traffic Management Project