In 1991, an internship working on thermal analysis for NASA launched Brigham Young University alumnus Boise Pearson into a 30-year career with the agency.
Pearson started at NASA as an undergraduate mechanical engineering student, but continued working for them throughout his time at BYU. After graduating with a master’s in mechanical and aerospace engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, he transitioned to a full time position and has been helping develop space technology ever since.
During his career he has worked on advanced electric and nuclear propulsion, as well as solar sails and space nuclear power projects. He was also the chief engineer for a collaboration creating a propulsion stage for a Europa Lander.
“I really like the technical challenge of putting together a project that is difficult with a lot of good people who are at the top of their game and able to make things happen that a lot of people don't think will work,” Pearson said.
In his current role as a manager and in previous leadership roles, Pearson said that people skills and soft skills are just as important as technical engineering knowledge. This is especially true when it comes to dealing with things going wrong on a project.
Despite all the exciting technical aspects of working as an engineer, Pearson feels he has been able to make the most influence when dealing with people rather than parts.
“One of the most important things is being able to not only integrate the technical part but being able to integrate these good technical people into a team that's functioning well,” Pearson said. “The soft skills and people skills necessary to successfully integrate a large technical project were surprisingly important to me.”
With one of their children at BYU and two at Ensign College (formerly LDS Business College), Pearson and his wife decided to make the move from Alabama back to his home state. He is now the manager of a small Utah branch of NASA that oversees booster production for the SLS rocket. They are currently building boosters for missions that will launch in the next couple years.
“In five years I hope to be down at the cape watching a launch of our hardware. I'll be watching the launch of the parts we’re building at the plant right now and get to see them fly,” Pearson said.
When he’s not overseeing the construction of rocket parts, Pearson has a list of constantly changing hobbies. In recent years he’s been tinkering around as an amature blacksmith, as well as learning to ride horses to go trail riding. Whether riding, hiking, backpacking or camping, Pearson loves any excuse to get outdoors.
BYU has influenced Pearsons hobbies as well. He grew a passion for flying and was inspired to get his pilot's license because of Dr. Eastman, a former instructor in the mechanical engineering department.
“He was one of my favorite professors and it was his love of flying and his stories and his classes that got me involved in that,” Pearson said.
The internship he got while at BYU changed the course of Pearson's life, and he emphasized both the value and the importance of getting experiences like that outside of the classroom.
“That's an invaluable piece of your education. I've had the opportunity to have a bunch of interns that I’ve mentored and I don't think you can beat the experience you get from taking a break from the academic side of school and working for a little while,” Pearson said. “I think it helps you understand better what you’re learning, why you're learning it, and how it all fits together. It gives you some perspective and experience. It helps you understand what you might or might not want to do.”
Pearson wants to give back by helping students receive the same opportunities that he had to work with NASA.
“I would like to help students get connected to opportunities and help them navigate the system to get internships and permanent jobs at NASA when they’re done,” Pearson said. “I am happy to help anybody who's got that as a goal, or is interested in figuring out how that system works and how best to get a leg up and stand out.”
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