Student Features

The Power of NASA
In the summer of 2009, Leech Lake Tribal College student Marie Kingbird-Lowry participated in NASA research to route a high-voltage power line through the Leech Lake Indian Reservation in north-central Minnesota. Kingbird-Lowry said the experience with NASA has given her a desire to be a role model, leading the way for other Native American young people to get involved in NASA projects.

Marie Kingbird-Lowry standing in a laboratory

Marie Kingbird-Lowry plans to pursue a degree in geology and serve as a link between NASA and others in the Native American community. Image Credit: NASA

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

I started out with the 2009 NASA/American Indian Higher Education Consortium Summer Research Experience (which is part of NASA's Tribal Colleges and Universities Project) in Bismarck, N.D. My mathematics instructor, Kelly Nipp, found this opportunity and gave me the paperwork to apply.

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

My partner, the late LeAnn Dick, and I were given the research topic of the potential impacts of the kilovolt transmission line on cultural resources within the Leech Lake Reservation. The research we did was used by an engineering company to help choose a route for a high-voltage power line that would be going through the Leech Lake Reservation. Many were opposed to this power line going through our reservation because of the damage it could cause to the forest and any historical sites that lie within. I feel that it is important to do this work so that the power company can supply electricity to the outlying areas of the reservation without causing any more damage to these resources.

What has been the most exciting part of your research?

The most exciting part of being able to work with the NASA program is the opportunities that have come my way. I am able to meet some very influential people that have become my friends such as Dr. Nancy Maynard, from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, and I have learned the ins and outs of GIS (Geographical Information Systems) to map out areas of interest for our projects that we have done.

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

I recently graduated from Leech Lake Tribal College with an associate degree in liberal education with science, technology, engineering and mathematics emphasis. I plan on going to Bemidji State University to study geology.

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

Before starting the Summer Research Experience, I was undecided on my direction of interest when it came to my education. Being able to work with the scientists and instructors of the NASA/AIHEC Summer Research Experience has heightened my interest in the study of geology. My four children -- Adriana 13 years, Alexander 8 years and my 6-year-old twins Robert Jr. and ReAnn -- have inspired me to do well in my education, to show that no matter where you’re at in life you can accomplish anything, and none of this would be done without the help of my husband, Robert Lowry Sr.

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

I feel that being a Native American woman I can become a role model to our Native American youth and other minorities to become acquainted with the NASA program. I hope to become a link between NASA and the Native American community.

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

I believe that with the subjects that I have learned while in the Summer Research Experience will help with becoming a geologist, and having this experience will help me to bring others into this career.

What are your future career plans?

I plan on going as far as I can in my education to come back to my community and teach others.

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

I would say that this is a very valuable experience for anyone to have, and I strongly encourage everyone to just take that first step. There are so many different aspects of the program, from being able to learn about spatial data and GIS, to finding lifelong friendships among the other interns.

Related Resources
> American Indian Higher Education Consortium   →
> NASA Tribal Colleges and Universities Project -- Native American Internships
> NASA Tribal Colleges and Universities Project -- Summer Research Experience
> NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Heather R. Smith/NASA Educational Technology Services