PASADENA, Calif. - 31 October 12
Jean Weatherwax Finds her Future in DESDynI
Heather L. Ogletree
“Global Warming,” “the Greenhouse Effect,” “Climate Change” — these phrases have become part of the fabric of our everyday vernacular. The world is changing. “But by how much, exactly?” is the question being posed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif.
Last summer, Jean Weatherwax, a senior at the University of South Florida, leaped at the chance to help find these answers. The electrical engineering student joined NASA Mentor Jim Hoffman to work 10 weeks as an intern designing T/R (transmit/receive) modules for spaceborne radars as part of JPL’s Earth Radar Missions task, for the proposed Deformation, Ecosystem Structure and Dynamics of Ice (DESDynI) Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Instrument or Deep Space One (DSI).
Weatherwax asserted, “With all the uncertainty about our planet’s future,…being able to understand quantitatively what is happening to earth’s biomass and ice through higher resolution satellite data is very useful to this cause, and I think it is one that affects everyone on the planet.”
At JPL, the proposed DSI mission would aid in predicting the response of ice sheets to climate change and impact on the sea level, in determining the likelihood of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and landslides, in characterizing the effects of changing climate and land use on species habitats and carbon budget, and in monitoring the migration of fluids associated with hydrocarbon production and groundwater resources.
As part of her internship, Weatherwax got to work with Microwave Office to model the high-power T/R modules required to implement SweepSAR technology. She said, “I did mostly hardware design, testing for component stability in desired space conditions, simulation for prediction of system behavior, and statistical measurements of component variation.”
At first, the design software, Microwave Office, presented a challenge. She noted that while working through the software tutorials, “There were some bugs in the simulation I had to do a lot of digging around to figure out. It was very helpful to have the support of other experienced engineers to give advice.”
This project also allowed Weatherwax to gain experience exploring SweepSAR, a new remote sensing technique for SAR. “Traditional issues with resolution can be overcome with SAR and signal processing techniques,” stated Weatherwax. “I had taken courses in, but never worked on wireless technology. Therefore, it was great to get a chance to do research and development in a new area of electronics.”
Prior to coming to JPL, Weatherwax interned at NASA under the MUST program. She is now attending Imperial College London to obtain a Masters’ in Analog and Digital IC design on a Marshall scholarship.
She concluded, “As a result of this internship, I am seriously considering work at JPL after my Masters’ degree. It motivated me to really look into a career in space technology. I was able to attend lots of very useful seminars and talks that have also opened up a lot of connections and possibilities for my professional future. JPL seems like a great place to work.”