Tahani Amer

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I am an American Muslim NASA employee who grew up in a suburb of Cairo, Egypt. I have always strived to live by three simple principles: Please God and you will please all. Education is the key to opportunity. Serve others with compassion and kindness.

If one thinks about these principles, it is very simple. You have general guidance about values and ethics from God and his books, self-determination by education, and a sense of social responsibility.

I planned on going to medical school in Cairo, Egypt, but I changed my major to engineering before starting college because of my life choices. I married at age 17 and moved to the United States.

Math was, and is, my favorite subject. I recognized early on that math provided an opportunity to find new methods for solving problems by using math models. When I came to the U.S.A. in 1983 and took my first calculus class, I could not speak a word in English, but I still made an A in the course. It was then that I knew an engineering career would be an awarding one.

I obtained a two-year associate degree in science while taking care of two lovely children. Then, I went back to school to finish my bachelor’s in mechanical engineering and went on to earn my master’s in aerospace engineering. Recently, I earned my doctoral in engineering.

I believe that NASA is a soft ‘pillow’ that allows you to dream of the impossible and then work hard to make it a reality. In 1992, during my senior year of college, I started working at NASA on the Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) project. By working on this project, I gained valuable experience and fulfilled my dream to work with scientists and researchers solving real-life problems! It was a privilege to work with state-of-the-art technology and with researchers who love their work. Then, I earned the opportunity to work in one of NASA’s wind tunnels to conduct pressure and thermal sensitive paint experiments for NASA’s Aeronautic Research efforts. This proved to be a valuable experience from both a theoretical and practical point of view. I experienced the excitement of working with large CFD computer codes and climbing up the ceiling of a wind tunnel to install a velocity probe. It was great; I was like a little girl in the ‘candy store’ of NASA.  Everything seemed possible.

Working at NASA is never boring. I invented and patented a system to measure the thermal conductivity of a thin film. This measurement is used in the thermal modeling of several techniques for determining boundary layer transition location on models being tested in wind tunnels. Currently, I contribute to NASA’s independent assessment process of the Agency’s Programs and Projects by working as a member of the Independent Program Assessment Office (IPAO), part of the Agency’s Office of Evaluation. I work very hard to skillfully execute my assignments and demonstrate managerial skills.

I strive to help and educate others by volunteering my time in community service through NASA programs, such as the “Day of Caring”, Engineering Week, the Speakers Bureau, Diversity Day, and after school science clubs. I spoke on the topic of Women in Islam during the Peace week at Old Dominion University in 2011, and I was a guest speaker at the Annual Luncheon for the Virginia Space Grant Consortium (VSGC) to state representatives, university presidents, and new students. I also chaired the Applied Science Session for the VSGC and the IPAO NASA Program Management Challenge 2011. My profile is included on one of the NASA Posters for outreach activity for Woman in Aerospace and in a college calculus book.

I am also involved in mosque programs for teaching Islamic rules and Arabic to young children. After September 11, I contributed to my community in Hampton Roads, Va., by helping to educate and fill the gap that many Americans have in understanding the religion of Islam. I have given lectures in many churches, universities, and local school systems. I was even interviewed by the local newspaper on this topic.

By living according to the aforementioned three principles, I try to set a daily standard to challenge myself. In the same way, I challenge myself by my work with NASA, stretching my understanding and seeking to improve myself and others through helping a great organization that is NASA.

Biography

Tahani Amer discovered her natural passion and inclination for engineering while watching her father fixing his car’s engine as she sat inside her small Egyptian apartment. While her love of math created a clear path for a mechanical and aerospace engineering future, it was great teachers and her father that encouraged and guided Dr. Amer. In return, she spends a great deal of her time to inspire and challenge young women to reach their potential. Dr. Amer started working at NASA in the Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) Branch. By working in this branch, she gained valuable experience and fulfilled her dream to work with scientists and researchers in solving real-life problems. She recalls, “It was a real privilege to work with state-of-the-art technology and with researchers who love their work.” Then, she landed an opportunity in one of NASA’s wind tunnels to conduct pressure and thermal sensitive paint experiments in support of the NASA’s aeronautical research efforts. This proved to be a valuable experience from both a theoretical and practical point of view. She has experienced the excitement of working with large CFD computer codes and climbing up the ceiling of a wind tunnel to install a velocity probe. Dr. Amer has invented and patented a system to measure the thermal conductivity of a thin film. This measurement is used in the thermal modeling of several techniques for determining boundary layer transition location on models being tested in wind tunnels. Dr. Amer holds a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering, a master’s in aerospace engineering, and a doctoral of engineering from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.