UpClose with a Scientist Mom
Interview by Mary Darr
In real life, moms are like scientists, researching and testing what we think our child needs to be a successful adult. But we’re also artists, combining what we learn with unique creativity and passion that influence the outcome of our child’s life. See how these two MOPS moms do life: one a scientist and the other an artist.
Melissa: Rocket Scientist Mom
Melissa Turner Jones has a B.S. and M.S. in Aerospace Engineering and works part-time (mostly from home) as a Senior Reliability Engineer for Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland. She and her husband, Ryan, have two children: AJ (3) and Joanna (1). Melissa attends MOPS at First Baptist Laurel and serves as the Service/Outreach Team Leader.
Melissa with Joanna (1) and AJ (3).
Describe your job and what you like best about your profession.
I’m a reliability engineer. I look at all the systems of a spacecraft to see how they could fail. This gives the mission managers an idea of ways they could change the design to make it more robust, and also how likely the mission is to be considered a “success.” I love that I get to look at the entire spacecraft instead of just one subsystem.
What’s most challenging?
Probably the most challenging thing is that I have to actually get work done on the days that I “work” from home!
Was your dream as a child to one day become a scientist?
I’ve told people since at least the fourth grade that “I’m going to be the first woman on the moon, so you ought to get my autograph now!”
How has being an engineer helped shape you as a mom?
I hope to pass the idea along to my children that no matter your circumstances (i.e., gender, ethnicity, special needs), you can achieve what you’ve set your mind to achieve, if you’re willing to work for it. I think that being an engineer also gives me a more rational bent. While my son’s “whys” get annoying at times, I like to tell him the actual reason why when he asks about something.
There are a lot of stereotypes of your profession, such as: “it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to … ”
I find people apologizing to me when they use that line. When I was in college and met someone new, the first question asked was, “What’s your major?” I’d tell them, and immediately their eyes would glaze over. Then their response invariably would be, “Oh, you must be smart.” And that would be the end of the conversation and also the potential relationship, no matter what I’d say about different ways of being “smart.” It was (and still is) very frustrating. Above: Melissa at work.
Do you see signs that any of your kids are following after your passion?
My kids are still very young (3 and 1), but among the first words they both said clearly was star. They also said fish and Dada and kitty cat (long before they said Mama). My hope isn’t that they follow my passions; it’s that they follow God’s will for their lives. Whatever that means and wherever that takes them.
How does being a rocket scientist impact your marriage?
My husband thinks what I do for a profession is cool, and he’s proud of me and my accomplishments. He’s never been intimidated by me. That also proves frustrating sometimes when he doesn’t take my advice about technical matters, but it’s one of my favorite things about him.
What else should we know about you?
Rocket Scientist is just my job title. It’s what I do, not who I am. When you meet someone new (and especially if they have an intimidating job title), look past the demographics and get to know the person.
Melissa in the Beginning
Childhood interests and hobbies: space and all things about space flight. But I spent as much time riding bikes and playing G.I. Joe in the backyard. I’ve also played flute and piano since I was 8.
Favorite childhood game: My brother, the neighbors and I would frequently play “Olympics.” We’d race around the house, see how far we could throw croquet balls (shot put) and stakes (javelin) and who could jump the farthest.
As a child, my parents said that I was: quiet. My mom also used to tell me (jokingly) that I could “find the cloud in every silver lining.”
Above: Melissa finishing her 5k run for a local pregnancy center.