Biographical Notes

I was born in Maine in 1984.

I lived in central Massachusetts from 1985 until going to college in 2002 and then grad school in 2006. Growing up, I loved space exploration and science fiction. I wanted to be an astronaut from an early age, or maybe an astronomer or engineer.

As a high school student, I became heavily involved in the Civil Air Patrol, a civilian volunteer organization that serves as the official auxiliary of the United States Air Force. I joined the Lt Col Frank Pocher Minute Man Squadron in Stow, MA as a cadet. There, I served in just about every role in the squadron up to, eventually, the cadet commander after I achieved the Billy Mitchell Award and became a cadet officer. (I would continue my involvement in CAP through grad school, as the Deputy Commander for Cadets and Aerospace Education Officer of the Ithaca Composite Squadron in central New York.)

During high school summers, I interned at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, where I worked in the High-Energy Astrophysics Division on oscillating plasma loops in the solar corona.

In 2002-2006, I attended Williams College. I majored in physics there and loved it - while I picked up squash, ultimate frisbee, and physics outreach and teaching experience from tutoring freshman physics students at the Math-Science Resource Center. I recieved my B.A. in 2006 after completing an honors thesis.

Self-portrait by laser light

My physics thesis lab, 2005 - the spots of purple light on the left come from the Nd:YAG pump laser and the coil of purple light is an Er/Yb-doped fiber gain medium

Rather than pursue an advanced degree in physics, I decided to follow my space exploration aspirations in the field of aerospace engineering. I entered the Ph.D. program at Cornell University in fall 2006, where I worked on next-generation spacecraft technology research. The Cornell doctoral program appealed to me partly because students must choose a minor field - which provided me with a tremendous excuse to take planetary science classes with the Mars rover guys across campus from the Engineering Quad. I finished my doctorate in early 2011, after several successful conference presentations, a zero-g flight on the Vomit Comet, and even a TV appearance!

I spent some time during my graduate career working at NASA's Johnson Space Center. There, I developed multibody dynamics models for the Chariot lunar rover concept. It also happened to be a summer of two Space Shuttle missions, the Augustine Commission hearings, and the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission - so I had a wonderful opportunity to observe and absorb NASA history and culture.

With the consummate Flight Director

Getting to meet Gene Kranz, a personal hero of mine!

In my subsequent professional life, I have been a guidance, navigation, and control engineer at several space companies, worked on-console for mission operations, received a patent for an attitude control algorithm, and am an architect of small spacecraft missions for deep space exploration. Some of my professional highlights include receiving an early career Stellar Award from the RNASA Foundation, and holding a technical lead role on a successful proposal for a new NASA planetary exploration mission.

RNASA awards gala

Receiving the Stellar Award from astronaut Shannon Walker

In my spare time, I like to draw maps of imaginary places.

Currently, I live in Denver, Colorado.


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This is the personal web space of Joseph Shoer and any opinions or conclusions presented here are his alone.