Kevin Jagdipsingh has been interested in science since he was a young child. He went to a science fair as a first-grader and thought the students' projects were neat.
At a young age, he read books about science. As a teenager, he became involved in NASA student projects, including NASA's Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy and New York City Research Initiative. The 18-year-old Brooklyn, N.Y., native recently graduated from high school and is studying science at Stony Brook University.
In the summers of 2006 and 2007, Jagdipsingh participated in the New York City Research Initiative's summer research component. The project offers teams of high school students, teachers and undergraduate students the opportunity to work alongside principal investigators of NASA-funded research projects at 12 colleges in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, and at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
Sponsored by the NASA Education Office, the project supports the agency's goal of attracting and retaining students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Jagdipsingh conducted research with professors Steve Greenbaum of New York's Hunter College and John Flowers of Medgar Evers College. The professors, in collaboration with Hunter College assistant professor Yuhang Ren, are testing the magnetic properties of nanoscopic materials for potential use in magnetic storage devices similar to computer flash drives.
Jagdipsingh used an electron paramagnetic resonance spectrometer, which analyzes the composition of magnetic materials, to determine the magnetic characteristics of cobalt nanowires. He tested sample cobalt nanowires arranged like the bristles of a toothbrush. He discovered that the resonance frequency of the cobalt samples depends on the angle and peaks at around 90 degrees.
Greenbaum said the way the material is arrayed might lead to vast improvements in memory storage.
To collect data about cobalt's magnetic potential, Jagdipsingh measured the response of the cobalt nanowires to microwaves by immersing samples in a microwave cavity and applying a large magnetic shield. "The way the material absorbs microwave energy as a function of temperature and also as a function of the angle between the nanowire axis and the direction of the magnetic field tells us much about the magnetic properties," Greenbaum said.
Jagdipsingh's poster about the project, titled "Ferromagnetic Resonance Study of Cobalt Nanowires for Magnetic Storage," won first place in the physical sciences category at the New York State Science and Technology Entry Program competition in March 2007.
Jagdipsingh said the NYCRI science project showed him what scientists really do. "I never knew that scientists actually did this (research)," he said. "I thought they all taught classes."
Frank Scalzo, education programs specialist for NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said students who participate in the NYCRI projects often go on to study science, technology, engineering or mathematics disciplines and eventually enter the NASA-related workforce.
Greenbaum, who has mentored high school students for more than 20 years, said hands-on projects like those students are involved in through NYRCI make a big difference in students' choosing science as a career.
"One of the things that students get out of this is a feeling for how science actually works," he said. "There is no guaranteed outcome. I get students involved in the real thing, and that makes an enormous impression on them. They're excited and motivated, because they realize they're part of a real hunt."
NASA's New York City Research Institute
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
NASA Education Web Site
Heather R. Smith/NASA Educational Technology Services