How has your career evolved since joining the Laboratory?
I began my career as a member of the Advanced Satcom Systems and Operations Group, where I worked on programs that enhanced the capacity and robustness of existing satellite communications (satcom) systems. This work included the design of adaptive coding algorithms that automatically sense and modify the data rate of links based on their current channel conditions rather than statically configuring them by assuming the worst case. During sunny, clear weather, terminals increase their data rate to get more throughput; during bad weather, terminals reduce their data rate, which means less throughput but extra robustness because there is additional redundancy in the transmitted data.
I also analyzed the performance of an aerial layer network utilizing airborne communication relays to provide beyond-line-of-sight communications. These relays could enable aircraft to augment a SATCOM network without relying on traditional communications satellites. Subsequently, my work concentrated on defining the next-generation architecture for space-to-space communications.
What would you tell someone considering a career at the Laboratory?
Go for it! I had a lot of doubts and fears about coming to work at the Lab. It can be pretty intimidating, especially for someone just starting their career. As someone who did — and still does — suffer from imposter syndrome, I can easily find myself wanting to step into or hide in the background, but at the Lab, I’m surrounded by smart people who are gladly willing to teach me and encourage me to shine. Through mentorship and collaboration with my colleagues inside and outside of the Communication Systems R&D area, I’ve become a more confident and well-rounded engineer and analyst. Now, as an assistant group leader of Advanced Lasercom Systems and Operations, I help unleash the potential of those in my group.
Where are you originally from?
I'm from Swansea, South Carolina, which is a small town about 20 miles south of the state capital, Columbia. When I was growing up, we had only one stop light, and most people outside of the area only knew about Swansea because of the exit sign on Interstate-26. Other than family and friends, food is one of the things I really miss about home. Hands down, the South has the best food. Whenever I go home, I have a punch list of everything I need to eat, particularly the Southern-style meat and three, which is a plate consisting of a meat with three vegetables (or sides). My favorite combination is the ham steak, macaroni and cheese (baked, not stovetop!), fried okra, and collard greens, paired with a sweet tea to drink.