Innovative manager.jpg

Rahul Ramachandran is manager of NASA’s Inter-Agency Implementation and Advanced Concepts Team at Marshall.

Engineering always seemed like a natural path for Rahul Ramachandran. From a child growing up in Delhi, India, his dream of becoming an aeronautical engineer and jet plane designer led to a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering.

But, after moving to the U.S. in 1991 to pursue a master’s in industrial engineering, his passion waned. Ramachandran landed into the meteorology graduate program at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City instead, the first of many steps that would lead to his current role as manager of NASA’s Inter-Agency Implementation and Advanced Concepts Team at Marshall Space Flight Center. IMPACT, part of NASA’s Earth Science Data System Program, fosters innovation, builds strategic connections, and enables early technology adoption to empower communities to effectively utilize the ever-increasing amounts of Earth observation data to improve research, applications, and decision making.

In addition to his engineering and meteorology degrees, Ramachandran holds a master’s and doctorate in atmospheric science, and a master’s in computer science, all from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 2009. Ramachandran loves adventure travel, especially hiking, and has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Mount Fuji in Japan. He also dabbles in creating digital art using artificial intelligence algorithms – a method he calls neural art.

Question: How do you encourage teamwork, collaboration, and integration, especially in this unprecedented telework environment?

Ramachandran: Our project management approach of using agile processes has helped in the telework environment. We tag up every two weeks to review project progress as a team and, more importantly, share kudos amongst the team on completing both a significant milestone and even small tasks where a team member has gone the extra mile. Everyone on the team is encouraged to participate in the review and celebrate successes, no matter how small.

Question: How are you managing your personal and your team’s work-life balance, especially now, a year into the COVID-19 pandemic?

Ramachandran: Managing a work-life balance has been very challenging. The line between work and home has blurred, and people are working longer hours. I encourage people to take breaks. We regularly schedule virtual social hours during lunchtime or Friday afternoons to socialize and check in with each other. While these virtual social gatherings are not the same as the in-person interactions that we all desire, they are still enjoyable.

Question: How does your team honor and demonstrate NASA’s commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive environment where team members are valued for their unique contributions?

Ramachandran: IMPACT strives to build a culture committed to collaborative, innovative and agile solutions. I am very proud that our team is very diverse. We have people with different cultural, racial and educational backgrounds with varying types of work expertise. We value diversity because it helps us look for solutions with different perspectives. We promote regular and ad hoc knowledge shares where team members share some technical knowledge or personal information, such as a favorite sitcom episode. These knowledge shares are very popular and enable everyone on our team to learn something new and find commonalities in our diversity.

Question: What key partnerships are your team pursuing to help NASA build and develop a sustainable presence on the Moon? Help push the boundaries of science, technology and/or human exploration?

Ramachandran: IMPACT’s mission is to expand open science through innovation, partnerships and technology. We have several projects where we partner with other federal agencies and international space agencies such as the European Space Agency and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency. We also actively collaborate with the private sector in the area of cloud computing, data science, and artificial intelligence.

Question: Why do you think your team is successful at staying mission-focused?

Ramachandran: Our vision statement, “Open Science,” drives us. We define open science as a collaborative culture enabled by technology that empowers the open sharing of data, information, and knowledge within the scientific community and the wider public to accelerate scientific research and understanding. Everything we do strives to: expand the accessibility to science by encouraging science as a way of thinking and enabling broader comprehension of scientific research results; enabling access to science as a body of knowledge; developing new technological solutions to make scientific research and knowledge dissemination efficient; and improve our ability to understand the impact of scientific research.

Editor’s note: Daniel Boyette, an LSINC employee and Marshall Star editor, supports Marshall’s Office of Strategic Analysis & Communications.

By DANIEL BOYETTE

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

Engineering always seemed like a natural path for Rahul Ramachandran. From a child growing up in Delhi, India, his dream of becoming an aeronautical engineer and jet plane designer led to a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering.

But, after moving to the U.S. in 1991 to pursue a master’s in industrial engineering, his passion waned. Ramachandran landed into the meteorology graduate program at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City instead, the first of many steps that would lead to his current role as manager of NASA’s Inter-Agency Implementation and Advanced Concepts Team at Marshall Space Flight Center. IMPACT, part of NASA’s Earth Science Data System Program, fosters innovation, builds strategic connections, and enables early technology adoption to empower communities to effectively utilize the ever-increasing amounts of Earth observation data to improve research, applications, and decision making.

In addition to his engineering and meteorology degrees, Ramachandran holds a master’s and doctorate in atmospheric science, and a master’s in computer science, all from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 2009. Ramachandran loves adventure travel, especially hiking, and has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Mount Fuji in Japan. He also dabbles in creating digital art using artificial intelligence algorithms – a method he calls neural art.

Question: How do you encourage teamwork, collaboration, and integration, especially in this unprecedented telework environment?

Ramachandran: Our project management approach of using agile processes has helped in the telework environment. We tag up every two weeks to review project progress as a team and, more importantly, share kudos amongst the team on completing both a significant milestone and even small tasks where a team member has gone the extra mile. Everyone on the team is encouraged to participate in the review and celebrate successes, no matter how small.

Question: How are you managing your personal and your team’s work-life balance, especially now, a year into the COVID-19 pandemic?

Ramachandran: Managing a work-life balance has been very challenging. The line between work and home has blurred, and people are working longer hours. I encourage people to take breaks. We regularly schedule virtual social hours during lunchtime or Friday afternoons to socialize and check in with each other. While these virtual social gatherings are not the same as the in-person interactions that we all desire, they are still enjoyable.

Question: How does your team honor and demonstrate NASA’s commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive environment where team members are valued for their unique contributions?

Ramachandran: IMPACT strives to build a culture committed to collaborative, innovative and agile solutions. I am very proud that our team is very diverse. We have people with different cultural, racial and educational backgrounds with varying types of work expertise. We value diversity because it helps us look for solutions with different perspectives. We promote regular and ad hoc knowledge shares where team members share some technical knowledge or personal information, such as a favorite sitcom episode. These knowledge shares are very popular and enable everyone on our team to learn something new and find commonalities in our diversity.

Question: What key partnerships are your team pursuing to help NASA build and develop a sustainable presence on the Moon? Help push the boundaries of science, technology and/or human exploration?

Ramachandran: IMPACT’s mission is to expand open science through innovation, partnerships and technology. We have several projects where we partner with other federal agencies and international space agencies such as the European Space Agency and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency. We also actively collaborate with the private sector in the area of cloud computing, data science, and artificial intelligence.

Question: Why do you think your team is successful at staying mission-focused?

Ramachandran: Our vision statement, “Open Science,” drives us. We define open science as a collaborative culture enabled by technology that empowers the open sharing of data, information, and knowledge within the scientific community and the wider public to accelerate scientific research and understanding. Everything we do strives to: expand the accessibility to science by encouraging science as a way of thinking and enabling broader comprehension of scientific research results; enabling access to science as a body of knowledge; developing new technological solutions to make scientific research and knowledge dissemination efficient; and improve our ability to understand the impact of scientific research.

Editor’s note: Daniel Boyette, an LSINC employee and Marshall Star editor, supports Marshall’s Office of Strategic Analysis & Communications.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.