NASA Co-Op Intern Krystal Gunter Reaching for the Stars
As a nine-year old, Krystal Gunter was up at 4 a.m. one morning to watch a space shuttle fly over her home on its approach to a landing at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Since then, the Corpus Christi, Texas, native has aspired to work for NASA.
When offered an internship in NASA's Cooperative Education program, Gunter jumped at the opportunity. She landed at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center located in California's Mojave Desert.
An electrical engineering junior at Texas A&M University, Kingsville, Gunter is assigned to NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, program and in particular, the SOFIA 747SP aircraft. Gunter is tasked with ensuring all the aircraft systems collecting data are on the same universal clock. This allows data to be accurately compared.
Gunter will begin calibrating the aircraft's sensors this summer. That is no small task as the SOFIA 747SP has between 400 and 500 sensors, each of which must be calibrated in preparation for the next phase of aircraft flight testing.
"My co-workers at Dryden are willing to teach me," explains Gunter. "They are willing to explain how things work and don't expect me to know it all.
"I am a part of what SOFIA will be doing, which is taking images of deep space. I am contributing towards the program's success," added Gunter.
Interning at Dryden is not her first experience with NASA. As a college freshman, Gunter enjoyed a weeklong experience at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston as an Aerospace Scholar. Each group of students was challenged to budget, design and build a Mars rover from Bionicles, an advanced version of LEGOs. She was recognized as the best overall student competing.
Gunter has also twice participated on the NASA team for a college bowl-type competition at a Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards conference.
The aspiring engineer brought her three-year-old son to California for the experience. C.J., as he is known, spends his days at a childcare facility close to the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif.
Gunter, who will be at Dryden until August, is serious about the engineering profession. She is a vice president of the university's Society of Women Engineers. She is also a member of the Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers, the Society of Hispanic and Professional Engineers, and the Mexican American Engineering Society.
After graduation in May 2011, Gunter looks forward to full time employment with NASA, where she finds her co-workers happy, as she is now, to be working for the agency.
Beth Hagenauer, Tybrin Corp.
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center