Graduate Student Researchers Project Fellow Eduardo Nicolau
Eduardo Nicolau stands behind a lectern

Student Ambassador Eduardo Nicolau presents an overview of his NASA experience during the STS-127 Pre-Launch Education Forum. Image Credit: NASA

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

I have been involved in various NASA student opportunities. My involvement with NASA started in 2003 when I joined the NASA Center for Nanoscale Materials at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras. The CNM is a NASA-funded university research center that provides opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students to participate in a research project. After such a great research experience, I realized that I wanted to be a scientist. Therefore, in 2008 I applied for the NASA Graduate Student Researchers Project, and since then I've been fully involved with NASA.

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

The research I conducted through NASA was first on fuel cells and then in life support systems. Fuel cell research is very important because it finds ways to generate power with minimum contamination. Life support systems research is vital to maintaining a habitable environment on the space shuttle and space station.

What has been the most exciting part of your research?

The most exciting part of my research is attending conferences and meetings around the world. As an intern at NASA's Ames Research Center, I have been able to work with world experts in life support systems, which is a great honor.

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

I graduated with a bachelor's degree in chemistry and a minor in environmental sciences in 2005. Currently, I'm studying chemistry and working toward a Ph.D. I would like to continue my studies as a postdoctoral student next year after graduation.

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

I have been always interested in understanding how nature works. Therefore, a career in science was what I chose in order to be able to further understand "how stuff works"!

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

NASA has helped me develop a range of skills in a variety of areas, from leadership and networking skills to professional values.

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

Certainly, my NASA experience will have a positive affect on my future. It gave me the necessary tools to be successful in many possible scenarios.

What are your future career plans?

In the future, I would like to be a professor and join the NASA community as a scientist.

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

NASA is committed to working with students, and involvement with NASA definitely pays back.

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

I expect to contribute as a NASA Student Ambassador by helping others to achieve successful careers in science, technology, engineering or mathematics -- especially the younger kids so as to engage them in a very early stage. In the next months, I'll be creating a Web page for a nonprofit organization from which I expect to formalize my efforts. This organization will focus on how we can engage students to continue a STEM career at every level, from K-20.

Related Resources:
>  NASA Student Ambassadors
>  Graduate Student Researchers Project
>  NASA's Ames Research Center
>  NASA Center for Nanoscale Materials at the University of Puerto Rico
>  NASA Education