A Student Reaches for the Stars Through a NASA Summer Internship

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[Ed. note: Jessica Johnson is a senior Earth Science – Geology specialization major with minors in Mathematics and Astronomy. She is also the President of the Geology and Planetary Science Club. Rock on, Jess!]

This past summer I had the incredible opportunity to work on site at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston for ten short weeks. I, along with 400 other applicants, applied for an internship through the Lunar & Planetary Institute (LPI) and twelve of us were chosen to work on a project with research scientists at the LPI and on site at JSC. Aside from the hard work that was put into the research project, the twelve of us were fortunate enough to be able go on “behind the scenes” tours that most do not get to see. The first tour we went on was inside of the Lunar Lab to see various samples from the Apollo missions. We went on a tour from the Star Dust Lab that houses many fine particles of cometary tail dust and general interstellar dust particles. Part of the way into the program we went into the Meteorite Lab that houses several thousands collected samples from the Antarctic return missions. Finally, the last tour we went on was going inside the HERA module that tests psychological effects of people in confined quarters for weeks at a time; this aids in the quest to send people into space for long periods of time.

My research project involved characterizing the mineralogy and petrography of foreign bits called clasts within three Ordinary Chondrite meteorite samples. The big picture for this project was that each meteorite contained a foreign clast that was of a different composition. By the end of the summer I had preliminary mineralogical and petrographic analysis done for each one. The clasts I studied proved to be very interesting in the sense that we couldn’t directly identify what they were a piece of or where they may have originally originated from. They showed that we had much to learn about our solar system.

This experience as a whole was absolutely incredible. I have made wonderful contacts through this experience and this internship as a whole would not have been made possible if it were not for the professors in this department. I thank Dr. Piatek for sending me the information on the application process; I didn’t even know it existed. I was completely prepared for this internship and I thank the professors in our awesome department for always encouraging, engaging, and pushing students to always do their best and explore new opportunities. Shout out to all of them!

The CCSU Geological Sciences Department rocks!

— Jessica Johnson

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