TRANSFORM speaker series: Tracy Drain
Growing up, Tracy Drain’s career interests spanned far and wide. At one point, she wanted to be a nurse. At another time, she considered archaeology. She also thought about becoming a pilot and a lawyer.
But throughout her entire childhood, one interest remained constant: science fiction shows, books and movies.
“In high school when I started seriously thinking about what I wanted to study in school and what kind of career I wanted to pursue, I decided that something related to space could surely keep me interested for a few decades,” she said.
When she got to college, Tracy embarked on a path that would lead her to a career that satisfied her long-term curiosity about space.
She obtained her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Kentucky and then her master’s degree in the same field from Georgia Tech. Today, she is a systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena where she has worked for 17 years. She’s also the deputy project system engineer on the Psyche mission, which will launch in 2022 on a mission to study the solar system’s largest metal asteroid.
When Tracy steps onto the red dot in September, she’ll share how taking the time to nurture and satisfy your innate sense of curiosity can enrich your life in a major way.
“If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me, ‘Why are you always so happy?!?’ I would have quite a little slush fund! I used to respond off-hand that I just always try to keep my inner child alive. But when I sat down to think about what I actually meant by that, I realized that a large part of it has to do with letting my natural curiosity guide me in both small and large things in a way that keeps my life interesting and very fulfilling,” she said. “Somehow, paying attention to and enjoying new things all the time makes each day feel a bit like a precious gift.”
Tracy said she hopes her TEDxPasadena Talk will show others that happiness doesn’t always require radically changing where you live, what you do or who you spend time with.
“Just changing your mental focus so that you notice, learn from and appreciate the interesting little things that surround you every day can be a surprisingly simple way to bring a lot of joy into your life,” she said.