Alumni Profile | Andrew Abercromby

Andrew Abercromby, deputy project manager and project engineer at NASA, chats about pulling pints in the Festival Theatre, learning to fly and living underwater.

NameAndrew Abercromby
Degree CourseM.Eng (Mechanical Engineering)
Year of Graduation2002

Your time at the University

Andrew Abercromby

I grew up in a small village in Fife and left high school a year early so my first year at Edinburgh University was particularly challenging. It didn’t take long though before I fell in love with the city and the student life.

I learned to fly at RAF Leuchars; played a lot of football at Peffermill; pulled pints working in The Argyle, Minders Bar, and the Festival Theatre; and learned how to be a mechanical engineer during many long days and nights spent at King’s Buildings.

I wanted to work for NASA and the university was very accommodating when I spent a year of my Masters working on the X-38 project at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas.

Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University

My career choices have been guided by a goal of making a difference in peoples’ lives while doing work that I enjoy. My engineering degree from Edinburgh University has been hugely important in my pursuit of that goal.

Andrew Abercromby

NASA

I was a student for a few more years after leaving Edinburgh, working on a PhD while doing my research in the Neurosciences Lab at JSC, and I have been a full-time engineer at JSC since graduating in 2006. After some work on spacesuit testing I am now deputy project manager and project engineer for a new spacecraft called the Space Exploration Vehicle, which is kind of like a space camper van with spacesuits on the back.

The most enjoyable part of my job is testing new hardware and exploration techniques in the desert, the Arctic, zero-g aircraft, underwater in NASA’s neutral buoyancy laboratory, and - my personal favourite - living underwater in the Aquarius habitat for 14 days during the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) 14 mission. Piloting a Deepworker submersible during NEEMO 16 and diving in the bitterly cold lakes of British Columbia as part of a science expedition were also memorable work trips!

I also work part-time as a firefighter which I find every bit as challenging as my day job, just in different ways.

I was honoured to represent NASA alongside the SEV and some fellow team-mates in President Obama’s Inaugural Parade in 2009 and I received a Rotary National Award for Space Achievement (RNASA) Stellar Award in 2012 for my work.

My career choices have been guided by a goal of making a difference in peoples’ lives while doing work that I enjoy. My engineering degree from Edinburgh University has been hugely important in my pursuit of that goal.

Alumni wisdom

Working well with others is probably the most valuable skill I learned during my time in Edinburgh.

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