NASA's Graduate Student Researchers Project is unique in that it allows students to propose research topics related to existing research being executed at one or more of NASA's centers. To apply for this opportunity, students first review a list of ongoing NASA projects and then select the project that best fits them and their education and career goals. For GSRP participant Rozlyn Chambliss, that research project was working with polymers and polymer nanocomposites, a topic relevant to the development of new materials and also relevant to Chambliss' pursuit of a doctoral degree in material science and engineering.
In which NASA student opportunity project did you participate, and how did you get involved in it?
I had an opportunity to participate in NASA's Graduate Student Researchers Project. In my search for possible fellowships that would give me an opportunity to receive an internship experience, I located information about the GSRP program. Once I located the information about the fellowship, my advisor, Dr. Melissa Reeves, encouraged me to apply. The GSRP was ideal because I had considered one of my future career paths of employment after graduation could possibly be a governmental lab. From my fellowship, I would get an opportunity to see firsthand what it is like to be a researcher in a governmental lab.
Explain the research you conducted through your NASA involvement, and why this topic is important.
While partnering with NASA, I had an opportunity to study the mechanical and thermal properties of polymers and polymer nanocomposites. I have studied systems such as pure polyethylene and polyethylene and single wall nanotube composites. The research area that I have focused on while here at NASA is important because carbon nanotubes have excellent properties, but all of the benefits and understanding of the nanotube systems have not yet been discovered. This research area is in harmony with NASA's motto of exploring new worlds and developing innovative technology. Through the use of nanocomposites, new materials can be developed that are lightweight and strong with versatile applications.
What has been the most exciting part of your research?
The most exciting part of my research is being able to see real life application to some of the things that I have learned in the classroom.
What is your educational background and what are your future educational plans?
I am currently working on a doctorate of philosophy in material science and engineering at Tuskegee University. My post-secondary education was from Tuskegee University, where I received a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry in 2006 and a Master of Science in chemistry in 2009. My future educational plan is to get a Master of Business Administration.
What inspired you to choose the education/career field you did?
I have always enjoyed math, and as I was searching for possible majors in school I felt that chemistry was an excellent choice with many career options. While I was completing my undergraduate studies, I started performing undergraduate research in a computational chemistry of materials lab. Working as an undergraduate in this laboratory, it sparked my interest and provided me with a challenge. Upon graduating, I had a desire to finish the project that I was working on, which later resulted in a master's degree. While completing my master's, I decided to pursue my Ph.D. The reason why I decided to get a Ph.D. was because I have always enjoyed having many options when it comes to a career path, and so with a Ph.D. there is a lot of flexibility.
What do you think will be the most important things you'll take away from your involvement with NASA?
The most important aspect of my involvement at NASA was the opportunity to enhance my technical skills, which helped me grow as a researcher. I have also had an opportunity to work with experts in my field who have inspired me to see my potential as a scientist. In addition, through my experience I have gotten a chance to work in a very diverse work environment. The biggest benefit, though, is that my involvement with NASA has helped in the pursuit of my doctorate. Through the GSRP fellowship, I have had access to resources at Ames (Research Center) such as the supercomputing center that under normal circumstances would not be possible. In addition, my NASA mentor Dr. Deepak Srivastava will serve on my doctoral committee.
How do you think your NASA involvement will affect your future?
After my involvement with NASA, others will most likely view me as a more respectable researcher. If I were given the opportunity in the future, I would love to work at one of the NASA centers.
What are your future career plans?
After completing my Ph.D., I plan to seek employment either in a governmental facility or in industry.
What advice would you have for other students who are interested in becoming involved with, or working for, NASA?
I would advise other students to apply for programs at NASA because it is a great place to work and there are tons of really nice people that really encourage you to succeed. The steps that I would take to get involved at NASA are to first search the NASA website to see which centers perform what type of research. Then contact the education department at the NASA centers, to see what type of programs they offer. Then look up possible mentors and contact the future mentors to see if they are willing and have the time to take on new students.
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Heather R. Smith/NASA Educational Technology Services