Developing the Next Generation Science Data Engineers


At Goddard, engineers and scientists with a range of experience in science data systems are needed to employ new technologies and develop advances in capabilities for supporting new Earth and Space science research. Engineers with extensive experience in science data, software engineering and computer-information architectures are needed to lead and perform these activities. The increasing types and complexity of instrument data and emerging computer technologies coupled with the current shortage of computer engineers with backgrounds in science has led the need to develop a career path for science data systems engineers and architects.

The current career path, in which undergraduate students studying various disciplines such as Computer Engineering or Physical Scientist, generally begins with serving on a development team in any of the disciplines where they can work in depth on existing Goddard data systems or serve with a specific NASA science team.  There they begin to understand the data, infuse technologies, and begin to know the architectures of science data systems. From here the typical career involves peer mentoring, on-the-job training or graduate level studies in analytics, computational science and applied science and mathematics. At the most senior level, engineers become subject matter experts and system architect experts, leading discipline-specific data centers and large software development projects.  They are recognized as a subject matter expert in a science domain, they have project management expertise, lead standards efforts and lead international projects. A long career development remains necessary not only because of the breath of knowledge required across physical sciences and engineering disciplines, but also because of the diversity of instrument data being developed today both by NASA and international partner agencies and because multi-discipline science and practitioner communities expect to have access to all types of observational data.

This paper describes an approach to defining career-path guidance for college-bound high school and undergraduate engineering students, junior and senior engineers from various disciplines.

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