Work Perfect

The day we strive for

Sherry ThaxtonSherry Thaxton

Human factors design engineer senior
Lockheed Martin

I perform human factors research for NASA's Human Research Program at Johnson Space Center, serving as the principal investigator for a study about space vehicle habitability. I started working for Lockheed Martin on the bioastronautics contract in 2006. Since then I have had the opportunity to participate in a variety of human factors roles, including applied anthropometry and biomechanics studies, requirements development and integration, human-in-the-loop evaluations of space vehicles, and implementation of laboratory and space analog studies aimed at improving future generations of space vehicles and habitats.

My primary current project is working toward a spaceflight study in which astronauts will use an iPad application my team has developed to document habitability and human factors observations during a yearlong stay on the International Space Station, which will be useful for us as we move toward longer duration deep spaceflight missions. I find that coming to this field from IE has helped make me a better project manager and provided me with the training to see the "big picture."

The best part about my job is that I get to apply my human factors background to one of the most interesting environments in which human operators work. I like variety, so there's no one perfect day at work for me. Some of my favorite days at work have included opportunities that are unique to NASA, such as performing evaluations in space vehicle mockups, wearing spacesuits, flying in zero gravity on parabolic aircraft, and scuba diving to an underwater habitat. A more typical perfect day would probably include seeing tangible progress toward habitability and human factors goals, which may involve getting news about a successful project proposal or seeing recommendations implemented in designs or operations.

– Interview by David Brandt 

David Brandt is the Web managing editor for IIE.