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An Alum Profile

Joseph Joyce ’11

Joseph Joyce ’11:

A Space Odyssey

Joseph Joyce's path to becoming a NASA engineer was far from conventional. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Joyce's academic career got off to a rocky start. He enrolled at Brooklyn College from high school with no career goal in mind, only to stop out of the program feeling burnt out and aimless.

But Joyce's story didn't end there. Encouraged by his younger brother, who was a student at Goldstein High School on the Kingsborough Community College (KCC) campus, Joyce decided to give higher education another shot after working several odd jobs. At the age of 22, he enrolled at KCC and, on a whim, chose to major in physics. "When I went to register at KCC, I knew that I wanted to challenge myself," Joyce recalls. "Physics was the hardest course I had in high school. It was the only thing that came to mind when asked on the spot."

It turned out to be a fateful decision. At KCC, Joyce found a supportive community of brilliant, passionate professors who nurtured his growing love for math and science. "The physics program really was amazing there," he says. “My professors in physics and beyond at KCC had so much passion for their fields, and they just wanted to kindle that spark in all of their students, something that you don’t get from traditional 4-year colleges.”

One professor in particular, Dr. Jay Mancini, had a profound impact on Joyce. "Dr. Mancini is the professor who really sparked my desire to keep learning," he says. "I would often go to his office when he was free, just to talk about anything and everything. He cares so much for his students, and it really shows. That kind of passion is contagious, and it gave me the love for math and science that I will protect deep within my heart and mind forever." Joyce credits Dr. Mancini with teaching him a valuable life lesson: "A physicist can do anything. It might take them a few extra steps to achieve the same goal as someone who is specialized in a specific field. A physicist can eventually solve any problem."


Armed with this newfound confidence and a stellar academic record at KCC, Joyce went on to earn a bachelor's degree in physics from the City College of New York and a master's in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Syracuse University. Today, he works as a flight safety analyst at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, where he plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety of NASA launches.

 Joyce's primary duties include conducting pre-mission flight safety analysis of launch vehicles and quantifying the risk to the public for every launch that NASA Wallops oversees. During operations, he serves as an operations safety risk analyst, setting boundaries on how a day-of launch should be conducted to minimize risk to the public. It's a challenging and rewarding job that requires a deep understanding of mathematics and a commitment to keeping people safe.

He is currently being trained to analyze missions using an autonomous flight termination system (AFTS), which uses redundant computers and GPS to track the launch vehicle. “For most missions, if a rocket goes off course, potentially endangering the public, a range safety officer would issue a command to terminate the mission,” he explained. “We’re seeing more missions coming up that will be using computer logic to take over this role. That means that we now need to verify that the logic has considered all failure scenarios so that the mission can still be conducted safely. It’s cool being a part of the future of rocket science.”

Despite his impressive achievements, Joyce remains humble and grateful for the opportunities he's had. "My biggest personal achievement is making my parents proud before they died," he says. "Professionally, my biggest achievement has been receiving the Robert H. Goddard Award from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center for the work that my flight safety team did to ensure that the most recent Super Pressure Balloon campaign was conducted safely out of Wanaka, New Zealand."

Joyce acknowledged that “without Kingsborough, I don’t know where I would be right now. I know for a fact that I would not be a safety engineer working for NASA.”

When he's not working, Joyce enjoys being creative. His passions include amateur filmmaking, gardening, and creating pieces to submit to local art competitions. He also enjoys going on weekend photo expeditions throughout the Delaware-Maryland-Virginia area he now calls home with his wife, who is a gallery director.

For students just starting out on their college journey, Joyce offers this advice: "It's alright to not understand what you want to learn. Try many different things. Talk with your professors and any professors who teach subjects you may be interested in. Practice and time will make you an expert in anything that you want to be an expert in. And it’s alright if you change your mind. Don’t stop learning and growing.”