3, 2, 1...Blastoff!
That famous phrase ushered NASA back into space for the first time since the 2003 Columbia tragedy. And an OC graduate was there to help the space shuttle get off the ground.
Diana (Kniffin) Oglesby serves as a computer scientist at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Her team is tasked with IT policy and architecture, intrusion detection services, incident response and investigation, and computer security.
Diana's team played a crucial role in Discovery's July 2005 mission by protecting the security of the computer infrastructure during the launch sequence.
“Some people ask me why we go to space when we have so many problems on Earth," she said. “I hope to make more people aware of the benefits the space program provides and the increase in quality it gives to our lives."
Diana's NASA career started when she was still an OC student pursuing her degree in information systems. In summer 2002, NASA selected her to work at the Kennedy Space Center. That fall, Diana was one of just two interns chosen to represent NASA at a select national conference in Washington, D.C.
Her internship blossomed into a fulltime job with one of the world's most recognized institutions. Diana says OC taught her the most important tools for her work at NASA the ability to think, to question, to find solutions, to be open-minded and to work with others.
“I feel a lot of pride in what these people have been able to accomplish in the last few years getting the shuttle off the ground," she said. “This is one of the defining points in the history of space exploration and NASA."
OC Grad Lives FBI Dream
The badge. The sunglasses. The suits. The knowledge about classified information and being able to say...and sort of mean it...“I'd tell you, but then I'd have to kill you."
The FBI is part of our pop culture. Agents are glamorized in movies and on TV...like on “24,” the hit TV series where smart, cunning and brave agents outmaneuver terrorists, foil assassination attempts and miss getting hit by showers of bullets, all an hour at a time.
Like many kids, Preston Ackerman dreamed about being in the FBI. When he visited the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Headquarters in Washington, D.C., on a childhood family vacation, the future agent thought working for the FBI would be an awesome career.
“I was amazed at seeing a room that contained one of virtually every make and model of firearm ever produced, the incredible forensic evidence they were able to obtain and – everybody’s favorite – the shooting demonstration,” he said.
He says he thought the idea of becoming an agent was just a dream. But the dream became reality.
After Preston had earned his degree at Oklahoma Christian in information systems (while running his own business) and worked as a computer network administrator for a few years, a friend who was an FBI agent encouraged him to apply.
His education, experience and skill in a variety of different computer applications, databases and operating systems made him a great candidate. He was accepted into the FBI Academy and survived the grueling four-month training in Quantico, Va., as a newlywed. He was ultimately hired in the FBI’s Chicago field office.
The FBI has identified its top priorities: protecting the United States from terrorist attacks, from foreign intelligence operations, and from cyber-based attacks and high-technology crimes; combating public corruption at all levels; protecting civil rights; combating international and national organized crime, major white-collar crime, and significant violent crime; supporting our law enforcement and intelligence partners; and upgrading FBI technology.
Ackerman's previous work experience plus his time at OC prepared him to quickly get around any spy software package.
He says a lot of what he does involves the work of traditional law enforcement, such as conducting interviews, surveillance, undercover work and developing sources, but more and more of the job is done behind a computer screen. And he does say they have to do a lot more paperwork in his office than they do on “24.”
"It is definitely not your typical 9 to 5 job. I have found myself in many places and doing things I would have never ever imagined. Many days, though, are normal,” he said.
And that is about all of the information he can divulge about his job. Our imaginations will have to fill in the blanks, because if he told us … well, you know.
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