MUST Scholar Erica Furnia
Erica Furnia in a white spacesuit

Student Ambassador Erica Furnia wears an Extravehicular Mobility Unit spacesuit like those worn by astronauts during spacewalks. Image Credit: NASA

In which NASA student opportunity project did you participate, and how did you get involved in it?

I applied for the NASA MUST (Motivating Undergraduates in Science and Technology) Project in 2006, which offered a renewable scholarship and paid internship for three years.

Explain the research you conducted through your NASA involvement, and why this topic is important.

I currently work in the Arc Jet Test Facility at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and assist in test operations by setting up and aligning video systems, as well as post-process raw video images. An Arc Jet uses an electric arc to heat a controlled mixture of oxygen and nitrogen, which is then accelerated and ejected out of the nozzle at hypersonic speed to simulate the gradient heat flux environment of the re-entry vehicle as it skids and then enters the atmosphere at extremely high temperatures. In the vacuum chamber connected to the nozzle, a heat-shield tile array model is tested for durability and is photographed as it experiences a bow shock from the high-energy gases.

What has been the most exciting part of your research?

The most exciting part of my research is actually being able to test the arc jet.

What is your educational background and what are your future educational plans?

I will be graduating with a degree in aerospace engineering from Texas A&M University this December.

What inspired you to choose the education/career field you did?

NASA's mission objective of space exploration inspired me to choose my career.

What do you think will be the most important things you’ll take away from your involvement with NASA?

The exciting research, networking and work experience are the most important things I’ll take away from my involvement with NASA.

How do you think your NASA involvement will affect your future?

Hopefully, my involvement with NASA will allow me to get a job with NASA!

What are your future career plans?

My future plans involve working for the aerospace industry.

What advice would you have for other students who are interested in becoming involved with, or working for, NASA?

The advice I would give students who want to work for NASA is to work hard in school and apply, apply, apply! The more you apply for internships, the higher your chances are!

How might you expect to contribute as a participant as a NASA Student Ambassador?

As a NASA Student Ambassador, I am the help link between students and NASA. With my experiences, I can facilitate students with questions on a peer-to-peer level.

Related Resources:
>  NASA Student Ambassadors
>  Motivating Undergraduates in Science and Technology
>  NASA's Johnson Space Center
>  Heat Shield Testing at JSC
>  NASA Education