This is a continuation. Part I described what a Rocket Scientist was like as a child and ended with a description how excited I was to go to Space Camp…
Years later my desire to work for NASA continued and I pursued and was offered a high school internship position at the Johnson Space Center during the summer between my junior and senior year of high school. The high school internship was a lot like a scavenger hunt where we had to complete simple engineering projects, as well as set up our own tours and interviews with NASA employees. I met a few astronauts, as well as Embry-Riddle Prescott Alumni and Flight Director Norman Knight, and saw things that very few other people ever get a chance to see, like Mission Control, NASA robotics and moon rock laboratories.
It was during my junior year of high school that I found Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and made it my first choice. I had to see the school that had a better Aerospace Engineering program than MIT and Caltech. I visited both Embry-Riddle campuses before I eventually decided on the Prescott campus.
To me, walking onto the Prescott campus felt like walking into my new home. I found that the people around campus and the people in town were exceptionally friendly. It didn’t take me more than a few seconds to fall in love with the landscape surrounding the campus either. In every direction I looked I could see mountains, and directly across the street from campus the Granite Dells stood majestically enticing me to hike and climb through them. The variety of the landscape was nothing like where I lived in Texas. In a thirty minute drive I was able to see a pine forest, high desert, awe-inspiring rock formations, mountains, and a lake. It was so breathtakingly beautiful.
I was also excited to see all of the new facilities at the Prescott campus. In just the past few years the campus received the new King Engineering building, Academic Complex I, and the Aircraft Experimental Fabrication building. In addition, the new library and cafeteria were under construction when I visited. I walked through laboratories that nearly made my eyes pop out of my head. I saw incredible senior design projects that inspired admiration and respect. I spoke to professors that were so excited about the classes they taught and the success of their students that they were almost bubbly.
Later when Embry-Riddle came to a recruiting event in my hometown, my Admissions counselor not only remembered my name from my brief visit to campus, she remembered details that I had told her of my trip and other things we had spoken about. It was a great feeling to know that I was a person, rather than the number I was to the other universities that I had applied to.
Going to Embry-Riddle also played a key role in helping me to receive a paid position as a co-op at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center. I received a call from the center offering me the position after I had given them a resume at the Embry-Riddle Industry and Career Expo months earlier. An interesting thing to note is that the other applicants were each interviewed over the phone before they were selected, while I was selected simply based off of my resume. Now I am a NASA employee on leave without pay until I return for my next co-op rotation and eventually to start my career after graduation.
Although I’m now 21, my 6-year-old self is still very close to my heart. I think that if I was able to meet her today (in a situation akin to what happened in the Disney film The Kid) she would be very excited and proud of what we have achieved. In addition to inspiring Mattel to create a Rocket Scientist Barbie and working on a project that one day becomes a NOVA documentary, one of my life’s goals is to always remain true to my six-year-old self; true to the six-year-old that decided she wanted to be a rocket scientist.