Monday, June 23, 2014

Whitworth Junior pursues passion at NASA

Projects include improving astronaut vision and drilling on Mars

Sarah Gady, ’16, was accepted into an internship program at the NASA Space Academy at Glenn Research Center, in Cleveland, Ohio. She is currently working with two other students on a project titled “Modeling Astronaut Central Nervous System Cerebral Fluid Response to Microgravity and its Effects on Astronaut Vision.”

“Vision problems are one of the main concerns when it comes to astronaut health,” Gady says. Her team is working to develop a model that will help them understand what can cause issues with an astronaut’s vision while s/he is in space.

And because trying to understand ways to improve an astronaut’s vision isn’t challenging enough, Gady and seven other students at the academy are working on designing a mission to Mars that entails drilling into the Martian soil. “We work on the project during the evenings, and we’ll likely start working on it over the weekends, too,” Gady says. As the internship winds down, Gady and the others will give individual presentations on their work to their internship mentors.

Gady says that Whitworth’s faculty and students have played a pivotal role in building her confidence to pursue a career in her chosen field. “I know that wherever I’m called,” Gady says, “my professors will always support me.” Whitworth Professor of Physics Kamesh Sankaran encouraged her to apply for the NASA internship.

Whitworth alum Micah Spaun, ’13, also participated in the same internship program during the summer of 2012. NASA Academy accepts between 30-40 students per year, nation-wide, to participate in its highly competitive internship program. Both Spaun and Gady worked with Sankaran on NASA research grants before applying to the academy, giving them a competitive advantage when they each applied for the internship.