Albany grad in space career

Choosing to be an engineer, she designs key part of solar probe in work at Johns Hopkins lab

Section: Capital Region,  Page: E1

Date: Thursday, November 23, 2006

ALBANY - When Jennifer Tanzman was a student at Albany High School, she excelled in almost every subject. She took all advanced placement classes and considered careers in everything from English to engineering.

The 1996 graduate chose the latter. For the past five years, she has been working as a structural analyst at the Space Department of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Columbia, Md. Last month, Tanzman saw years of her work put into action, when the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, commonly known as STEREO, launched from Cape Canaveral outfitted with solar arrays that Tanzman designed and built.

The arrays keep the spacecraft running, using solar energy to power the craft's battery.

The arrays were kept against the body of the craft during the Oct. 26 launch and were opened after 31 minutes.

Tanzman, who now lives in Baltimore, watched the launch nervously on a large screen at the space center.

"If the solar arrays don't deploy, the mission is a failure," said Tanzman, 28. "It was a tense period."

Immediately after the arrays deployed, Tanzman called her mother, Judy Tanzman, who still lives in Albany.

"She called us screaming, saying that the array had deployed and she could breathe easy again," said Judy Tanzman. "She had been waiting years for this."

The STEREO Web site touted the project as "capturing the sun in 3D." Its job, said Tanzman, is to study coronal mass ejections, formerly known as sun spots, which often interfere with satellites and power grids.

Tanzman's Albany High School guidance counselor, Mar na Atkin, said when she ran into Tanzman in a restaurant last year, she was not surprised to learn her former student was working for the space program.

"She was so bright and mature and motivated," Atkin said. "Honestly, there would have been nothing she ended up doing that I would have been surprised by."

Danielle Furfaro can be reached at 454-5097 or by e-mail at