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NEWS | March 30, 2023

NSWCDD ‘Worker Bee’ Cares for Others on Job and at Home

By Taft Coghill Jr., NSWCDD Corporate Communications

Houra Rais is a caretaker at heart.

Rais was a caregiver for her parents before they passed away. She’s now serving in the same role for an adult family member who is battling a brain disorder.

“It melts my heart,” Rais said of witnessing her loved one’s struggles. “It’s very difficult. This has been going on for a year. We’re getting used to our new normal but it’s very hard on a daily basis.”

When Rais isn’t caring for her family member, she is serving the warfighter and colleagues at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD), where she has worked as an engineer since 2005 following a 16-year career at NASA. 

Rais is known for genuinely caring for colleagues in the NSWCDD Weapons Control and Integration Department, but her contributions aren’t limited to providing a morale boost. 

Rais conducted research on a variety of topics ranging from polarimetry-based radar target detection to biometric collection and matching algorithm performance characterization. She published multiple peer-reviewed articles related to target detection.

Rais’ colleagues consider her a role model professionally and personally as they witness her humble nature and the empathy she shows others.

“I really don’t like being in the limelight. I’m just a hard worker,” Rais said. “People like me. My co-workers like me.”

Rais considers herself a “worker bee” and undeserving of recognition. But the Iranian immigrant who arrived in the U.S. at age 16 made a significant contribution at NASA and continues to do so at NSWCDD.

Rais spent her NASA career at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland where she worked on the Search and Rescue Mission Project.

Rais and her team used radars and other technologies to improve the blind search process in which there was no beacon to indicate where a boat was disabled or a plane wreck occurred.

“In the case of a crashed boat or a crashed airplane, we used an airborne radar that can map a large area to see if you discover an anomaly or manmade object in the background of a natural environment,” Rais said. “It’s a very hard job to do.”

After the project ended, Rais was hired by NSWCDD as an engineer. She said it was a seamless transition because she immediately began work on radars, which lasted almost a decade before she went into non-lethal weapons and later polarimetry-based target detection.

“When I got to Dahlgren I was serving my country by helping find the buildings or the tanks or the war machines of adversaries in a natural background,” Rais said. “Now with polarimetry identity, we are protecting our Sailors from threats.”

Rais said she’s thankful for the opportunity to serve with NASA and the Navy. Her co-workers continually express appreciation for her service, but Rais said she is indebted to them.

“I am fortunate to have colleagues who teach me a lot and are very supportive,” Rais said. “I really have no complaints. I’m just extremely grateful.”