Published: July 22, 2022

The Dittman family.
Dittman with his wife and children.

Name: Tim Dittman
Advisor: Jade Morton
Lab: Satellite Navigation and Sensing (SeNSe) Laboratory
Program: 2019 CU Boulder aerospace master's graduate now studying toward a PhD

I came to Boulder, CO for employment with an impactful non-profit that supports earth science research using geodetic data called UNAVCO

If you aren’t sure what geodesy is, you are not alone, but you definitely depend upon it. Research in this area is important to navigation, building projects, land surveys, and creating a better understanding what is happening on and inside planet Earth.

At UNAVCO, the majority of the research we support uses openly available global navigation satellite system (GNSS) signal data observed at global ground station networks to answer intriguing earth science questions.  

As an undergraduate student, I studied geological engineering, with coursework covering things like bridge design, volcanoes, and structural geology in addition to engineering fundamentals.

I loved traveling throughout North America doing field work with a passionate team at UNAVCO in support of such a cool mission.

I also wanted to learn more about space-based remote sensing from geodetic measurements, but I was many years out of school and previously in a different department.

CU Boulder aerospace was intimidating.  I initially signed up for Kristine Larson’s Introduction to GPS course as a CU continuing-education student (Kristine is now emerita).

The nature of her research, combined with her patience encouraged me to enroll in the aerospace engineering sciences MS program while continuing my work at UNAVCO. I was quickly drawn to the many CU Boulder aerospace faculty, staff and students thriving in interdisciplinary applications at the intersections of science and engineering, with most colleagues having a variety of complementary backgrounds.

I connected with Jade Morton in her one-of-a-kind GNSS for Remote Sensing class and she eventually became my PhD advisor.  In her lab (The SeNSe Lab), Jade has established a culture of collaboration and mentorship amidst cutting edge research. 

Members of the SeNSe laboratory
Members of the SeNSe Lab.

Jade and the dynamic lab team she assembled are additional proof to me that it is the people that make an experience. In this case, the research is the tasty icing on the cake.

In Boulder, I also met my brilliant wife (a CU Boulder grad) and we are parents of three semi-feral children.

We remain captivated by the local ‘backyard’ mountains and broader western adventures. 

Aspects of my path toward aerospace are less typical in some ways, but Jade, the CU Aerospace staff, and UNAVCO colleagues have reassured my family and I throughout our journey. 

As my time as a student at CU Boulder is possibly nearing its end, the inspiring labmates from CU SeNSe Lab combined with Jade’s tireless wisdom and homemade potstickers have made a transformative and fulfilling journey.