Jill Marlowe

In elementary school, I was that girl who loved Barbies, but mostly because I was all about modifying and constructing new and improved versions of her ‘Dream House’ from whatever I could find. My family spent most of their weekends sailing together on the Chesapeake Bay, and I was fascinated with how my father could trim the sails in any wind from any direction to get the best speed, and how my family worked together as a team to get the boat to respond. Looking back now, I realize that it was my desire to design and build improved structures, my love of the wind, and my respect for teamwork coupled with my natural talent for math and science that led me to find my dream career in aerospace engineering.

After beginning my career designing and analyzing submarine structures at General Dynamics Electric Boat, I joined NASA’s Langley Research Center in 1990 when the Navy reassigned my husband to Norfolk, Virginia. I actually didn’t know that NASA’s Langley Research Center was in the area, and was so excited when I realized that his reassignment created my dream opportunity to join the NASA team. During my early years with NASA, I was a structural analyst, working to predict and optimize the structural performance of a wide variety of hardware, including space-based remote sensing instruments to measure the Earth’s atmosphere, improvements to major NASA wind tunnels, and research experiments on the Space Shuttle and Mir space station.

Very quickly, my supervisors seemed to think that I had a gift for working with people, and encouraged me to pursue opportunities in management, which I did. Today, I serve as the Director of the Research Directorate at the Langley Research Center, where I lead our Center’s largest organization to conduct transformational research and develop break-through technologies in aeronautics, structures and materials, and airborne systems to enable NASA’s Aeronautics, Space Technology and Exploration missions.

I didn’t plan the career that I have been blessed with, and honestly never did any real career planning – it just seemed that at every turn, there was another challenge that I thought was worth solving where I thought maybe I could make a difference, so I went for it. I like to think that in the roles I have held so far, I have made some difference in helping people to solve some tough problems for NASA, and I hope that my future allows me to continue to make a difference. I’ve had the unique opportunity to spend parts of my career with both the engineering and research sides of NASA, and I am passionate about bringing these communities together to shorten the time it takes to bring our next generation technologies from concept to flight.

My advice to the next generation is that the biggest challenges, the ones really worth solving, are usually so large that you can’t solve them on your own; don’t let that intimidate you – raise your hand, volunteer, and join or form a team to forge the solution. The biggest reward for me is working with people, a variety of people, and together accomplishing things that really matter. When it is all said and done, I want people to remember me as someone who helped people achieve more than they ever thought they could. My favorite part of my job is when I get to watch the faces of our team at that moment when they realize that they have just accomplished something really big, something that brings NASA’s bold vision of the future another step closer to reality.

photo of Jill Marlowe

Biography

Jill Marlowe’s professional career spans a period of 25 years working in research and engineering organizations to deliver hardware, technology, concepts and methods to enable complex aerospace systems for the NASA’s missions. She currently serves as the Director of the Research Directorate at NASA Langley Research Center, where she leads a 1,100-person (670 civil servants, 330 on-site contractors) research organization to advance foundational research and develop technologies to enable NASA’s Aeronautics, Space Technology and Exploration missions. Prior to joining the Research Directorate, Ms. Marlowe served as Deputy Director of Langley’s Engineering Directorate, where she was responsible for day-to-day management and operation of 530-person (370 civil servants 150 contractors) engineering organization that designs, analyzes, fabricates, integrates, tests, and operates a wide variety of one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art aerospace technology and complex flight systems. She had the opportunity to serve as the Integrated Design & Analysis Manager for the Ares I-X Flight Test Vehicle, a pioneering development effort to flight test the predecessor of NASA’s Ares I launch vehicle. In this role, she was responsible for the overall technical leadership and direction for the Ares I-X integrated vehicle analyses and related verification activities, and led a diverse 60+ member team from across the Agency and industry. Leading up to her Ares I-X experience, Ms. Marlowe held a series of varied and increasingly responsible positions in Langley’s Research & Technology and Systems Engineering Directorates. In addition to these formal management positions, Ms. Marlowe has led and served on a variety of Center, Agency and professional teams. Her formal education in systems engineering and related sub-disciplines is both broad and deep. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace and Ocean Engineering from Virginia Tech in 1988, and then a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1990. In 1997, Ms. Marlowe completed a Degree of Engineer in Civil and Environmental Engineering at George Washington University, which is a post- master’s professional degree program designed for in-depth applied study versus basic research. In 2008, Ms. Marlowe was honored with the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, which is awarded for notably exceptional leadership that has had a pronounced effect upon the technical or administrative programs of the Agency. She is currently an AIAA Associate Fellow. Ms. Marlowe is married to Kevin L. Marlowe, Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the Hamptons Veteran’s Administration Hospital and Captain in the U.S. Navy Reserves, and they are enjoying raising their three children, two in college and one just starting elementary school, in Yorktown, Virginia.