Shaping the Future
Growing up in Texas, Jared Crooks always was intrigued by the night sky. This curiosity led to a high school opportunity at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Today, Crooks is continuing his educational journey as a graduate fellow working with NASA.
In which NASA student opportunity project did you participate, and how did you get involved in it?
I am here at NASA as part of my fellowship with the Scholars in the Nation's Service Initiative (SINSI) through Princeton University. It is a competitive program that seeks to get students more involved in the federal government. Upon earning their bachelor's degrees, students are admitted into the Wilson School's two-year Master’s in Public Affairs (M.P.A.) program. After completing their first year of graduate study, students work for two years in federal government as part of the SINSI fellowship, then return to campus to complete the M.P.A. program.
Describe your involvement in Princeton's Scholars in the Nation's Service Initiative.
The Scholars in the Nation's Service Initiative was started by the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University to address the need for talented and committed men and women to enter public service to solve the challenges we face at home and abroad. The goal of this initiative is to set outstanding individuals on the path toward public service careers in the U.S. government, focusing on both domestic policy and international affairs, through academic training that is integrated with work experience in federal agencies. I am at NASA Headquarters as part of a two-year fellowship through SINSI to learn the mechanics of both science policy and implementation. Working with the NASA Science Mission Directorate and the Office of the Chief Technologist has been an extremely rewarding experience thus far. The skill sets and leadership opportunities I have been given will serve me well through any foreseeable task in my career. Because the NASA network is so supportive for this type of growth, it was a perfect match.
Explain the research you are conducting during your time at NASA and why this topic is important.
I am doing two types of research while here at NASA. I work with a team in charge of the planning of the Astrophysics Roadmap 2013, which frames the science that the astrophysics community would like to do for the next 30 years. I am currently working on building the framework of NASA Prize Competition and Innovation with a great team in the Office of the Chief Technologist. Both of these topics are important because they help shape the way that we think about conducting science in the future as well as redefining the way innovation happens in a larger, crowd-sourced way.
What has been the most exciting part of your research?
It has been amazing to play a part in crafting NASA’s role in the incredibly elusive innovation process and providing a new way to utilize prizes and competitions to achieve a specific goal. This is a fairly new initiative, and it feels great to be a part of it.
What is your educational background, and what are your future educational plans?
For my undergraduate degree at Princeton, I majored in astrophysical sciences and minored in planets and life (astrobiology).
I am currently studying for my graduate degree at Princeton for my M.P.A. and M.Eng. (Master of Engineering).
What inspired you to choose the education/career field you did?
I have always been intrigued by the night sky with its sable blanket dotted with galaxies. Being from Texas and with Houston just a stone's throw away, NASA had always been in the back of my mind as a child. I got my real inspiration during high school when I participated in the Texas High School Aerospace Scholars program at Johnson Space Center. That program really helped me to see how science research and technology can change the course of humanity.
What do you think will be the most important things you will take away from your involvement with NASA?
The ability to be able to synthesize an organization's programs and restructure them in a way that is most efficient. Creating space for creativity, which is not as easy as it sounds!
How do you think your experience with NASA will affect your future?
My experience here at NASA has given me the opportunity to work with a team as well as take charge of projects, both of which are valuable tools for my future. This opportunity has really gotten me excited about technological innovation.
What are your career plans for the future?
Although I have many miles to journey, I will most likely incorporate some values of what I am learning into my future career, whatever it may be!
What advice would you offer other students who are interested in working with or for NASA?
Take charge of your time at NASA. Seek out advice often, and when you encounter any down time or slow periods, suggest new projects you could pursue!
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Mindi Capp/NASA Educational Technology Services