I am The J: It is rocket science to this guy

How did DC-born Boeing employee Marquise Johnson end up joining The J? We went straight to the source to find out.

J: What brought you to Birmingham?
MJ: My wife was accepted into the Accelerated Master’s in Nursing Pathway program at UAB. So we decided to move down from Huntsville.

How did you learn about The J?
Our apartment is very close to the facility and I knew I needed a new gym home. I signed up the same day I toured and have been coming ever since.

Marquise will graduate from Auburn University in May after earning a master’s degree in systems engineering.

What are your favorite activities at The J?
I enjoy shooting around on the basketball court and getting lifting tips from Cody [Cody Bass, now The J’s membership director] in the weight room. 

You’ve worked at Boeing for six years in Seattle and Huntsville. Is that a dream come true?
Yeah — six amazing years at Boeing and still counting. When I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, Boeing moved me across the country to work as a design engineer creating the passenger floor stanchions for the 787-10 airplane. In short, a passenger floor stanchion is the part that holds up the passenger-level floor so it doesn’t fall into the cargo hold. 

Then I got the opportunity to achieve my dream and design the Space Launch System rocket in Huntsville. Specifically, I work on the rocket’s avionics and propulsion subsystems. The propulsion system is one of the most complicated systems I’ve ever encountered. 

When did you know you wanted to work on rockets? 
It was one day during a Scholastic Bookfair at my elementary school. My parents gave me $20 to spend and I felt like the richest boy in the world. I came across How Things Work and was fascinated. The book demonstrated how escalators work and why roller coasters don’t fly off the tracks and all types of other things. But the page that stuck with me the most was about a spaceship. I was super intrigued and I knew then what I wanted to do when I grew up. 

What’s your favorite space- or rocket-related movie?
I guess I would be lame if I said Avengers or Transformers… right? The honest truth is my favorite space-related movie growing up was Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie. Now as an adult, my favorite space-related movie is Hidden Figures. I love that movie from the standpoint of how much harder math and calculations were to not only complete, but to get right prior to software programs that graph and calculate for you. I consider myself a smart man now, but I have no idea how I would have designed those stanchions if I’d had to draw and calculate everything by hand. My hat goes off to those people.

Are friends always asking you to fix things for them?
Absolutely and often. I’m the family member that gets invited over to help when one of the kids has a really complicated Barbie Kitchen set to put together.

Have you come across any engineering issues at The J that you might be able to help us fix or improve?
Not at all. Your facility is really nice. [Editor’s note: THANK YOU! But we can maybe think of a few things we’d like to improve…]

Do you get a little kick out of telling people that you’re a rocket scientist?
I definitely do — not simply because of the title itself, but because of the complicated backstory to get to this point. It means a lot to me to be able to say it.

Cats or dogs?
Honestly, neither. I have an aquatic turtle that I love dearly. His name is Machiavelli Johnson. 

Assuming that you attend our May 15 Jewish Food and Culture Fest (because why wouldn’t you?!), what food(s) will you most look forward to consuming?
Yes, I do plan to be there and I am looking forward to trying the challah and a potato bureka.