Rodney B. Wallace
BS Mathematics, 1983
University of Georgia
MS Applied Mathematics, 1986
DSc Operations Research, 2004
The George Washington University
Technical Solutions Manager
NASA's Space Station Program represents a gigantic step toward a new frontier for Man-Space exploration for the 21st century. Not since the Space Shuttle program has there been a major undertaking by NASA. Over the past 24 years, I have had the opportunity to work on this and other leading edge of science and technology. My experience spans across a number of great companies: AT&T, IBM, and Singer-Link. How did my mathematical training influence and enhance my professional career?
After completing my BS in Mathematics, I went to work for Singer-Link, a NASA contractor that provided training to Space Shuttle astronauts. I put my mathematical modeling skills to work immediately, simulating various payloads that were to be deployed from the Space Shuttle. This assignment required a broad understanding of many applied engineering concepts such as Boolean logic, equations of motion, and electrical circuits - all of which have mathematics as a common denominator. Courses such as calculus, differential equations, advanced engineering mathematics, and modern algebra made my assignment a piece of cake. It was very rewarding to see the astronauts out in space working on projects for which you helped prepare them - especially when they thanked the simulators on live television.
After singer-Link, I decided to complete my MS degree in applied mathematics. With an advanced degree in hand, I decided to apply to one of the most respected research and development facilities in the world, AT&T Bell Laboratories. I accepted a position in the department of performance analysis of computer systems and became interested in queuing theory, which is the analytical tool most widely used to model the performance of computer systems. A queueing theorist studies waiting lines using various theories and tools found in mathematics. Queueing theory provides data on computer performance such as throughput, response time or delay, and utilization. Thus, I was introduced to the world of performance modeling. My fascination with this subject led me to take advanced graduate courses in queueing theory. As a member of the technical staff at the Labs, my assignment was twofold: I developed queueing models to predict the performance and capacity of new products; and I educated our customers on how to properly monitor their systems.
While at Bell Labs, I completed one year of doctoral studies in applied mathematics. I then elected to join the Space Program once again by accepting a systems analyst position with IBM. I lead the technical efforts in computer systems and network performance analysis, modeling, and sizing for the Space Station Training Facility. This facility consists of a mainframe, midrange computers, workstations, local area networks, and actual flight equivalent components necessary to train NASA's astronauts for their Space Station missions.
Currently, I have taken on more technical management responsibilities at IBM in a different area focused on information technology and professional services. My mathematical training has definitely been a plus in my professional career. With my recent completion of my doctorate in Operations Research focused in queueing theory at The George Washington University, mathematics will play a very important role in my future.