Terrian Nowden

My first day at NASA…I was hired as a Technician, so I was to work in a shop environment. On my first day I was taken on a tour of the shops in the building I was to be working. I remember being impressed by the neatness of the shops, because I thought the shops would be dark and gloomy. To the contrary, it was bright and neat. Everything had a place; everything was in its place. I remember thinking, these guys are neat, wow! I later learned every Friday was clean-up day and if special guests were expected, there was a special clean-up before their arrival. So, I was special, at least for that day.

Growing up I wanted to be a veterinarian, accountant, or engineer. When I became a technician, I knew I would continue my education. Doing so was an important goal…an unfinished task that had to be completed. However, I enjoyed the work I was doing as a technician! Working with the test engineers, I felt as a technician, I had the better job!

When I decided to go back to college to finish my degree, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted my new career to be or if I wanted a new career. Again, not knowing what lies ahead, I prepared myself by going on Details here at GRC. After a re-organization or two, I became a Power Systems Analyst for the ISS electrical power system team. Funny, I became an engineer anyway.

My greatest accomplishment occurred while working as a technician. I was the technician to fabricate and assemble the glove-box experiment, Wire Insulation Flammability Experiment (WiFE), which flew on space shuttle Columbia to the International Space Station (ISS). This experiment was to study the effects of burning wire insulation in zero gravity. I still remember watching nervously on NASA television as the experiment began. It worked perfectly! The insulation burned properly and most importantly, they were able to obtain good data. I jumped for joy as I watched the experiment run its course.

My proudest moment occurred when I became a Power System Analyst on the Electrical Power System (EPS) team. The EPS team performs analysis on the electrical power system of the ISS. That’s really cool! I never imagined I would be part of a team that performs such important work. The Power System Analysis Branch is a great group of people that perform power system analysis for current and future space vehicles. Our Branch is the Power System Analysis Lead for the agency. I work with remarkable people!

Life lessons:
Life can be challenging. I lost my dad nine months ago. We were close friends. My dad enjoyed his life and he would say to me; if you work hard, you’ve earned the right to play hard! (lol, a twist on the well know statement) From that, I’ve created my own motto: you only have one life; be responsible, take time to enjoy it! We all work hard providing for our families, developing our careers, putting in extra hours at the office, etc. But I feel it is equally important to balance those things out with some enjoyment. It works for me!

One of my favorite quotes is by author, Edward Everett Hale: “I am only one person, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. What I can do, I should do. And what I should do, by the Grace of God, I will do.” This quote inspired me to tutor mathematics. I have this skill; I should use it to help others. I enjoy tutoring youth and adults. I love the moment when the light bulb comes on and they get it!

I have tutored math for one of NASA’s STEM schools. I also volunteer to tutor members of my church. I often share with students my secret for overcoming the “math blues”. The secret is, lots of practice!! I compare it to rehearsing for the school play, practicing before the big game, or preparing for the next swim meet. Each of these activities requires much of practice. Well, mathematics is very similar…practice makes perfect.” While the comparison is easily understood, it’s one that is hard to swallow!

photo of Terrian Nowden


Before coming to NASA, Terrian Nowden worked part-time in the Co-operative Education Office of the junior college she’d been attending. One of her duties was to receive incoming calls from employers who wanted to list co-op positions for the students. When NASA Lewis Research Center (now Glenn Research Center (GRC) at Lewis Field) called to post various technician positions, she was very excited. She collected the information, posted the positions, and then setup an interview for herself. The position requirements were simply math, science, technical courses and good grades; all of which she had. Terrian became an Instrumentation Technician in the Research Instrumentation Branch, where she worked for 15 years. As a technician, she designed, developed and tested research devices and hardware for use in aeronautical research. She specialized in the development and fabrication of micro-miniature instrumentation. While she enjoyed her job, she knew that she wanted to complete her degree. She obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from the University of Akron while working full-time. Today, Terrian is a Power Systems Analyst on the Electrical Power Systems (EPS) team for the International Space Station (ISS). The EPS team provides Verification Analysis Cycles of the electrical power system for ISS. In essence, the EPS team models the electrical power system of ISS, predicting the amount of power ISS will have for scientific research, experiments, life support etc. “I never imagined having my work associated with space station! It’s an honor to have such an opportunity!” Terrian volunteers to tutor and speak to youth about math and science. She encourages them to work hard comprehending and completing their math assignments. She often shares with them her secret for overcoming the “math blues”…practice! She compares math homework to their school activities; practicing for a big game, rehearsing for a school play, or preparing for a swim meet. Each of these activities requires lots of practice to achieve good results. Well, mathematics is very similar…practice yields good grades. While the comparison is easily understood, it’s one that’s hard to swallow! Having worked at NASA 24 years, Terrian has enjoyed a wonderful career thus far and looks forward to new challenges.