NASA engineer by day, DJ by night

By Rachael Sanders
Assistant News Editor

Mark BranchOver the weekend Saturday Science hosted a discussion with Mark Branch, an aerospace engineer by day, and DJ by night. Branch works as a group leader for the electromagnetic compatibility test group at NASA as well as a world-class DJ under the name DJ Scientific, and was featured on ABC as part of a series on people who lead double lives.

As part of his job at NASA, Branch travels to different schools and informs kids about the career possibilities within scientific and mathematical fields.

“When I used to talk to kids about NASA and everything, I used to think that I was talking over their heads, and then I said to myself, ‘How can I communicate better with them?’ And I said, ‘Why don’t you just start talking about the stuff you do [at night]?’ Branch said. “I connect with them because of the music that I play.”

Branch said at the time when he started working for NASA, he was one of few black engineers in the area, and NASA was working on recruiting more minorities. Because of this, NASA chose him to speak to children and get them interested in pursuing scientific careers.

“I was a good example of … somebody who looked like them who was doing something entirely different from what they had been familiar with: science. And that’s one thing I try to do with these discussions, to make science cool, because it’s not too cool as far as some people are concerned,” Branch said.

Mark BranchAlthough his main objective is to interest children in science, Branch also said several times to his audience on Saturday that they should “follow their passion” when choosing a career, even if it is not science-based.

Don Thomas, director of the Willard Hackerman Academy of Mathematics and Science and head of Saturday Science, said that Branch was invited to speak as part of a Black History Month program.

“We’re trying to expose young students to different careers in science [by] bringing in different people from different backgrounds and show them the fun side of science. We try to have fun here when we do our programs so that when the kids think about science they think, ‘Yeah, that’s cool,’” Thomas said. “[Branch has]a great background and a great message to tell the kids … We try to bring in role models for a diverse audience here, and I think he hit the mark with the kids and I think the parents, too.”

Kim Shapiro, Towson alumna and community member, came to the event with her eight-year-old niece, nine-yea- old nephew, and 11-year-old family friend.

“I come to most of these because I love this program, and I love that it’s open to the community and it exposes kids of all ages to what they could possibly do in the future,” Shapiro said.

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