Biographical Notes

I was born in Maine in 1984.

I lived in central Massachusetts from 1985 until going to college in 2002 and then grad school in 2006. Growing up, I loved space exploration and science fiction. I wanted to be an astronaut from an early age, or maybe an astronomer or engineer.

As a high school student, I became heavily involved in the Civil Air Patrol, a civilian volunteer organization that serves as the official auxiliary of the United States Air Force. I joined the Lt Col Frank Pocher Minute Man Squadron in Stow, MA as a cadet. There, I served in just about every role in the squadron from element leader to flight sergeant to, eventually, the cadet commander of the squadron after I achieved the Billy Mitchell Award and became a cadet officer. (I would continue my involvement in CAP through grad school, as the Deputy Commander for Cadets and Aerospace Education Officer of the Ithaca Composite Squadron in central New York.)

During high school summers, I interned at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, where I worked in the High-Energy Astrophysics Division on oscillating plasma loops in the solar corona. This work started to convince me that I prefer experimentation to data analysis at a computer, cool as the material is!

In 2002-2006, I attended Williams College. I majored in physics there and loved it - while I picked up squash, ultimate frisbee, and physics outreach and teaching experience from tutoring freshman physics students at the Math-Science Resource Center. I recieved my B.A. in 2006 after completing an honors thesis.

Self-portrait by laser light

My physics thesis lab, 2005 - the spots of purple light on the left come from the Nd:YAG pump laser and the coil of purple light is an Er/Yb-doped fiber gain medium

Rather than pursue an advanced degree in physics, I decided to follow my space exploration aspirations in the field of aerospace engineering. I entered the Ph.D. program at Cornell University in fall 2006, where I worked on next-generation spacecraft technology research. The Cornell doctoral program appealed to me partly because students must choose a minor field - which provided me with a tremendous excuse to take planetary science classes with the Mars rover guys across campus from the Engineering Quad! I finished my doctorate in early 2011, after several successful conference presentations, a zero-g flight on the Vomit Comet, and even a TV appearance!

I spent some time during my graduate career working at NASA's Johnson Space Center. There, I developed multibody dynamics models for the Chariot lunar rover concept. It also happened to be a summer of two Space Shuttle missions, the Augustine Commission hearings, and the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission - so I had a wonderful opportunity to observe and absorb NASA history and culture.

With the consummate Flight Director

Getting to meet Gene Kranz, a personal hero of mine!

I like to travel to unfamiliar places, throw ingredients in a wok and see what happens when I stir-fry them, get way too attached to my Wraiths when playing StarCraft, devour science fiction that involves elaborate world-building, and go overboard with Monty Python and Arrested Development references. I fancy myself a blogger and a bit of a fiction writer, but now that I'm no longer in grad school I don't post as much and I haven't had any luck selling what I think is my best short story. (Maybe next time...) I do have some art projects; I draw maps of imaginary lands.

Currently, I live in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


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This is the personal web space of Joseph Shoer and any opinions or conclusions presented here are his alone.