“Reach outside your comfort zone for career success,” said
Dr. Shamin Rahman. As a student of Indian origin attending
Texas A&M University in 1981, Rahman was surprised to find
himself working for the U.S. space program. After all,
Rahman reasoned, he was merely attending college on an
immigrant visa. He wasn’t even an American citizen.

But a co-operative program between Texas A&M in College
Station, Texas, and NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston
provided Rahman the opportunity to pursue what he still
considers “the job of my dreams.”

Born in Jamshedpur, India, but raised in Bahrain in the
Arabian Gulf, Rahman was fascinated by flight, routinely
visiting airports just to watch takeoffs and landings. At
age 16 in 1979, he came to the United States to pursue his
dream of becoming an aerospace engineer. After his freshman
year at Texas A&M, thanks to NASA’s co-op program, he began
working for the Space Shuttle scheduling support office at
Rockwell International Corp., the NASA Shuttle prime
contractor’s Houston operation.

“Granted, as a student intern, my initial duties were fairly
mundane: posting schedules and lining the walls with charts,
assisting engineers with technical graphs and reports,”
Rahman recalls. “But what a thrill it was!” He was working
alongside the engineers in Houston in 1981 at the time of
the first Space Shuttle mission, STS-1. “That was what got
me hooked on the space program, and I’ve never looked back,”
he said.

In 1983, while completing his undergraduate studies at Texas
A&M, Rahman was nominated by one of his professors to
present a student paper at the annual conference of the
International Astronautics Federation in Budapest, Hungary.
Once more, Rahman found it an odd juxtaposition of
circumstances, an Indian citizen representing the United
States during the Cold War era at an international
conference being held behind the Iron Curtain.

Also in attendance was Hermann Oberth, a German scientist
who was one of the founding fathers of modern rocketry and
modern astronautics, a natural role model for Rahman. It was
a great honor to meet Oberth, Rahman said, and he cherishes
two mementoes from that encounter: a photograph of Oberth
awarding him the undergraduate competition medal, and his
autographed copy of Oberth’s ground-breaking 1923 book (in
German), “The Rocket into Planetary Space.”

Rahman began his professional career in 1985 at The
Aerospace Corp. in El Segundo, Calif., where he worked as a
fluid and thermal analyst on launch vehicle and spacecraft
flight programs for the U.S. Air Force. In 1992, he returned
to full-time graduate study at Penn State University, State
College, Pa., to earn a doctorate in mechanical engineering,
with a concentration in rocket propulsion research. From
1997-1998 he worked at TRW Propulsion Research Center in
Redondo Beach, Calif., designing and analyzing performance
of innovative rocket propulsion devices for civil and
military applications.

Rahman began his NASA career at the Stennis Space Center,
Miss., in 1998. He served in the Propulsion Test
Directorate’s engineering division as branch chief of design
and analysis, and was later promoted to division chief. In
March 2003, he was appointed chief engineer for the
Directorate, responsible for technical oversight for one-of-
a-kind, world-class rocket test facilities. He also oversees
a variety of research and development test projects for
next-generation U.S. rocket engines.

Since his college days, his experience with the space
program has reinforced his view; NASA draws on the best from
around the world.

“There are so many scientists and aerospace experts, German,
Hungarian, Chinese, Egyptian, Russian, Lebanese, and many,
many more, who worked with NASA once they came to America,”
Rahman said. “I’m proud of all the people from different
countries who have contributed to the space program, not
just those from my own native country.”

“So often I see engineering and science graduate students
looking for an academic advisor and colleagues of the same
community and/or ethnicity,” Rahman said. “Don’t do that.
Exposure to a broad spectrum of people and places provides a
more enriching, wider perspective, and ultimately a more
fulfilling life experience,” he said.

Media organizations interested in interviewing Dr. Rahman
should contact Paul Foerman, Stennis Space Center Public
Affairs, at: 228/688-3341.