Julia Zhou – Technical Lead
- Quote: Creativity is the key to solving complex problems that we face every day.
- B.Eng. in computer science
- M.Eng. in computer engineering at the Shenyang University of Technology
- Job title: Technical Lead
- Employer: Honeywell
What is your connection to the James Webb Space Telescope?
As the technical lead on the FGS/NIRISS instrument team, I was responsible for designing, developing and testing the flight software for those two instruments. After the instruments were built at Honeywell, I became involved in system integration tests and participated in leading the FGS/NIRISS instrument team for all ISIM and OTIS system integration cryotests.
What part of the Webb mission are you most excited about?
I am most excited about the role that Webb will play in identifying and studying distant exoplanets. We will be able to learn more about the atmospheric composition of exoplanets and may even find signs of water.
What is the best part of your job?
The best parts of my job are the challenging problems that I am able to work on every day. I have had the opportunity to work with the FGS/NIRISS team to create innovative technical solutions that will help make the Webb mission a success.
How did you choose your career path?
Since high school, I have been interested in mathematics and physics and how they can be used to solve complicated and practical problems. I decided to pursue a bachelor's degree in mathematics and electrical engineering, followed by a graduate degree in digital signal processing. A friend of mine who worked in the space industry encouraged me to get involved, and I am glad I did because I have had amazing opportunities to help solve challenging and interesting problems in space science.
What advice would you give young people interested in going into space science?
If you are interested in space science, our country needs scientists and engineers, and I think that there will continue to be a need for scientists and engineers to improve our understanding of the universe. Webb will help us answer some of our current questions such as what the first stars and galaxies were like, what the atmospheres of Earth-like exoplanets contain, and whether there are traces of water on faraway planets.
However, there are still many fundamental questions that remain unanswered such as: what is dark matter? What came before the big bang? Is there other life out there in the universe? Those questions are still waiting for future generations of space scientists to begin to solve.
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