Not long after Patty was hired as a laser technician, she decided to go back to school for a bachelor's degree and earned a scholarship to make it possible. The only problem was that the scholarship required her to attend school full time, risking her new job at the Laboratory. Patty's group leaders, however, had other ideas: they allowed her to work a flexible schedule while earning her degree and, once she did, promoted her to a staff position. Patty now works on the R&D behind laser systems — designing, testing, and analyzing lasers in an experimentation lab. "Lasers are so cool! My job is fun. I get to be on the cutting edge of laser technology every day, and I work with amazing people who all have this great attitude of 'Let's make this successful,'" she says. Patty was part of the large team at the Lab that made NASA's Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration in 2013 a success, a mission that proved lasers could transmit data over long distances at a faster rate than ever before achieved.
Outside of the laser lab, Patty is her group "guide," making sure that new employees know where they can find mentorship and resources. One resource she praises is the Technical Education Program, which offers free courses onsite taught by Laboratory experts. She shares her group's philosophy that anything that advances your knowledge advances the group's knowledge. That philosophy is what allowed her growth at the beginning of her career, and it's what she keeps in mind as she considers a master's degree in her future.