Engineering career 'out of this world' for civil engineering alum

Calendar Icon Jul 06, 2020      Person Bust Icon By Phillip Carter     RSS Feed  RSS  -  Submit a Story

Dwight Mosby earned his Ph.D. in civil engineering in 2010.
Dwight Mosby earned his Ph.D. in civil engineering in 2010.

Before he was supervising payload operations for space flights, Dwight Mosby wanted to be a dentist.

Growing up, Mosby had an uncle who was a dentist. Keeping people's teeth healthy seemed like a decent career opportunity to Mosby, who was recently appointed to a pair of leadership roles within International Space Station payload operations at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center prior to the historic May 30 SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch from Florida.

Luckily for the aerospace industry, Mosby's mother, Janice Brooks, Ph.D., had other ideas. Knowing her son's passion for science and engineering, she challenged him to follow his drive and reach for the stars.

"She noticed that I was always tinkering with things, always building something," said Mosby, who graduated from the College of Engineering in 2010 with a doctorate in civil engineering.

Mosby's interest in physics as a youth was inspired by two teachers at his East Allegheny High School – James Frankiewicz and Ruth Jordon. Frankiewicz, Mosby says, "brought the bull" out in him after Mosby earned a "C" in physics.

"He challenged me," added Mosby, who earned bachelor's and master's degrees in physics from Clark Atlanta University. "I was upset that I didn't get a better grade because I was a straight 'A' student and thought I had done enough to earn an 'A' but he docked me for not participating in class discussions, and for not being more of a team leader. He told me 'do not be afraid to speak up. Don't be quiet.'"

As for Jordon, the school's English teacher, her words of encouragement still resonate with Mosby.

"One day she stopped me and said, 'You're going to go and do big things,'" Mosby said, recalling the moment with pride. "Those two teachers made me reflect on what I wanted to achieve and do things the right way."

Mosby also had his share of influences during his time at Nebraska, which began in the early 2000s after a meeting in Houston, Texas, with Patrick T. McCoy, an associate professor of civil engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who offered Mosby a fellowship to study transportation engineering.

Up to that point in his career, Mosby was working for aerospace using his background in physics to manage payloads and operations designed for the relatively new International Space Station (built in 2001).

Mosby loved working alongside McCoy, but during his first year of the fellowship, McCoy lost his battle with cancer, so Mosby decided to return to Houston, Texas and resume work for Teledyne Brown Engineering as a multi-purpose logistics module instructor.

A few years later, Aemal Khattak, professor of civil and environmental engineering, reached out to Mosby and invited him back to complete his Ph.D. and continue studying ground transportation, including railroad research projects.

"I loved it," Mosby said of his time in the College of Engineering. "I was working on railroad safety projects and was fully ready to leave space transportation for the railroad industry."

In addition to Khattak's encouragement, Mosby also credits former associate professor of industrial and management systems engineering Erick Jones, and Linda Schwartzkopf, who was with the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, for making Nebraska's good life even better.

"I hated to leave," noted Mosby. "Being a military brat, I had moved a lot but Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) became home for me. I grew up there and experienced four seasons in Pittsburgh. Atlanta was too hot and there was no snow. Nebraska reminded me of Pittsburgh and the people were so friendly. Plus, there were four seasons, not two."

Before joining NASA, Mosby held multiple positions with Teledyne Brown Engineering in Huntsville, including manager of space station Training and Crew Operations, and program manager for space station Mission Operation and Integration. He says it's an exciting time to be part of the space flight industry where he wears two hats, reporting to the flight manager as payload cost accounts manager while managing the Payload and Mission Operations Division.

"Now it's NASA and our commercial partners coming together to maintain low Earth orbit exploration and push further into deep space exploration than ever before," explained Mosby, who enjoys living in Huntsville with his wife, Quaynteece, and their two children Dwight III (Trip), 12, and Walker, 11. "SpaceX, Northrop Grumman, Sierra Nevada, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, all these different companies are getting involved in space exploration."

Up next for Mosby, who has received numerous awards and commendations from NASA, are more flight and payload preparations for space. Two upcoming missions include the Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) Scout spacecraft launch of a satellite in 2021 that will fly close to an asteroid, and the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) launch in April 2021 that will measure the polarization of cosmic X-rays.

It will be difficult to replace the excitement he had watching the Crew Dragon launch on May 30 with Trip and Walker, who were 2 and 1, respectively, which was NASA's third-to-last manned spacecraft launch in 2010.

"We had our picture taken with the last shuttle crew when they were preparing to launch in May 2010, I looked at that photograph when the SpaceX launch happened, and I felt like a little kid again."

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