NCCS Staff Spotlight: Ying Shen

Ying Shen

In honor of Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May, we recognize the contributions of an NCCS staff member who exemplifies the best qualities of this team, contributing every day to NASA’s missions and supporting scientific research through his hard work and many talents.

Hometown: I was born in Shanghai, the historic port city on the eastern coast of China. I’ve lived in Maryland for 11 years. Before that, I also lived in Nova Scotia and Hawai’i.

Career path: I earned two Master of Science degrees from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia: one in applied math and the other in physical oceanography. During and after graduate school, I worked on the other side of Bedford Bay as a physical oceanographer at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography (BIO) in Dartmouth.

Left: The Macdonald Memorial Building, Dalhousie University. Photo by Verne Equinox.
Right: Aerial photo looking east at Bedford Bay, Nova Scotia. Halifax Harbor is at the bottom of the photo. Wikimedia commons photo.

A few years later, I moved from Nova Scotia to Honolulu, Hawai’i. I worked as a data system specialist at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa’s (U.H. Mānoa) International Pacific Research Center (IPRC). At the IPRC, I built a data server system for climate research focused on the Asia-Pacific region.

Left: The Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Wikipedia photo by Dennis Jarvis.
Right: University of Hawai’i at Mānoa campus looking toward Diamond Head from Round Top Drive, Honolulu. Creative Commons photo by Travis Thurston.

In 2010, I moved to Rockville, Maryland — my current home town — and joined the NASA Center for Climate Simulation (NCCS) team at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Current role: I work as a data analyst for NCCS by providing application support to high-end computing users, mainly NASA-affiliated research scientists. User support for specific projects and technical needs typically begins with requests from users through the NCCS “ticketing” system. This requires quickly learning new tools that the scientists are struggling with or wish to adopt for their project. I also have to understand enough about their research to put those technical challenges into context.

Inspiration: My inspiration comes from a desire to support my family of three children, one now entering college. I am inspired to work for NASA, and I feel blessed to work here at NCCS. My goal and habit is to support scientific research and help accomplish NASA’s missions by continuously learning and always doing my best.

My 15-year-old son, Isaiah, also inspires me. Despite being in the ICU as a newborn for two weeks, his work ethic is unbelievable! He is not physically strong due to that setback, but he is a fighter. No matter how exhausted he is from his swimming training — which involves getting up at 4:30 a.m. for a 12-hour day of practice and school — he has never missed the deadline to submit his homework. When I was at his age, I was not like that.

People who have influenced me: My first mentor was Tan Yongji, a Professor at the School of Mathematical Sciences at Fudan University in Shanghai, China. Other role models from my years at Dalhousie University include my graduate school advisor, Professor Keith R. Thompson, a British-Canadian oceanographer. When I worked at the BIO, Dr. John W. Loder, a Canadian physical oceanographer, was also my mentor and role model.

One of the Asian-Americans who have influenced me as a professional is my former colleague at IPRC at U.H. Mānoa, Dr. Dailin Wang. Wang is a physical oceanographer at NOAA's Pacific Tsunami Warning Center these days. He is a dedicated scientist who has a deep understanding in research. Above all, Dailin is the kindest person I have ever met.

Challenges: Since NCCS is always on the leading edge of high-end computing, it is always a challenge for us to keep up with the fast pace of change in technology, especially as that change accelerates.

Editor’s Note: Ying brings that “cool, laid-back” Hawai’i vibe to NCCS. He can be spotted wearing aloha shirts and sharing fragrant lychee fruit, when they are in season, with fellow NCCS staff.

Sean Keefe, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center