Kennedy Space Center
Iowa State University, M.S. in Chemical Engineering
What award(s) did you receive from the ISGC?
I benefited from ISGC funding twice. The first opportunity came in the form of funding for an internship at Marshall Space Flight Center during the summer of 2015. This internship gave me the opportunity to work on environmental control and life support systems, specifically working on recycling oxygen from metabolic carbon dioxide to support long-duration human habitation in space and reducing oxygen resupply from Earth. This internship gave me the experience that made me eligible for the internship I had during the spring of 2016 at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) that directly led to my current employment at KSC.
For the second opportunity, I was awarded an ISGC Graduate Fellowship, which will allow me to attend the International Conference for Environmental Systems (ICES) in the summer of 2019. Because I had funding secured for this conference, I was able to attend a second conference I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to that covered a wide range of research into resource utilization outside Earth (robotic mining on the Moon and asteroids, oxygen liberation on the Moon, etc.) At the ICES conference, I will update my knowledge about current research into resource use off-planet and environmental control for astronaut survival. This conference is heavily attended by leaders in my current area of research, so meeting them and making connections and collaborations will be very useful for the effectiveness of my research and technology development.
What have you learned and what skills have you gained during your involvement with the ISGC?
My time with the ISGC has taught me innumerable things! During one of my ISGC-funded internships, I met with high-level leaders at NASA, including a trip to NASA Headquarters in DC and a visit with a Nobel laureate. Through these experiences, I learned a lot about leadership and NASA’s organization and mission. I also learned a number of technical skills including data collection and analysis, gas chromatograph operation and analysis for measuring gas stream composition, and experiment design and lab testing. These skills were very important for my graduate studies.
During my second award, I was studying catalysts in the Dr. Jean-Philippe Tessonnier research group at ISU. I was learning important skills like mentorship, catalyst synthesis, testing, and analysis, and information dissemination through poster presentations at conferences.
What is a memory you have from your experience with the ISGC?
There are too many fond and important memories for me to choose from. I was awarded a prize at the intern poster competition and met the center director at MFSC, I toured Kennedy, Goddard, and Headquarters, I met 5 astronauts, I attended space camp, I watched a rocket launch, and on, and on – so many seminal experiences happened during my ISGC-funded internship at MFSC. The entire experience was unforgettable.
What’s next for you?
I am currently employed by NASA at Kennedy Space Center as a chemical engineer in the In-Situ Resource Utilization group. I spend my days thinking up ways to use resources available outside our planet to enhance astronaut exploration of the universe. I research, design experiments, and carry out testing on center in this pursuit.
What are your career or education goals?
I am living my career goal! I am employed with NASA in In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) development group. I love my job, and I can’t see myself going anywhere soon. In the future, I plan to be a part of the agency’s continued success in whatever role I can make an impact.
Why do you love STEM?
I have always loved science – I’m not sure I can put into words why. I think humans have always had a yearning to explore and understand how the world works. And I’m not just talking about the latest, cutting-edge research about particle physics, but learning about everyday phenomena is fascinating and accessible to everyone. Why does ice float on water, why is the sky blue, what is lightning, how do birds know where to go when they migrate? When you are curious about the world around you, you never run out of things to discover and learn – it’s what makes life interesting.
Do you feel your involvement with the ISGC was beneficial to your education and STEM career?
I honestly would not be where I am today without the ISGC, and I am eternally grateful to the organization. I grew up thinking an engineer was someone who drove trains. When I got to college, it was my understanding that engineers were way smarter than I could ever hope to be, and I still didn’t really know what they did.
After a great deal of career exploration, I returned to school in my late 20’s to pursue engineering with the expectation that I would probably fail. By funding my endeavors, the ISGC gave me the confidence to follow my passions in a way I would not have otherwise. By the ISGC believing me, I believed in myself. After a lot of hard work and taking some chances, I am in the dream job I never dreamed I could have.