Student Features

Matthew Deans
portrait - Matthew Deans Matthew Deans. Image Credit: NASA.
  1. Which NASA program did you participate in prior to the Ambassadors Program and what was your major project for that program?

    I have had the fortune to be part of two different NASA programs prior to becoming a NASA Student Ambassador. I originally participated in the NASA USRP (Undergraduate Student Research Program), at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, in the summer of 2006. I contributed to a study on aircraft safety; I tested and modeled a system that would filter exhaust gas to make an inert mixture that could be used in on-board fuel tanks to help prevent disasters. My current student program is with NASA GSRP (Graduate Student Researchers Program) which I was selected for in 2007. My work for this project is developing a methane and oxygen catalytic ignition system which could act as a backup and more energy efficient alternative to current ignition devices.

  2. What are you majoring in and what college are you attending?

    I am majoring in aerospace engineering at Case Western Reserve University. I have completed my BS and MS and am currently working on my Ph.D.

  3. What are your career goals? Are they with NASA?

    While I have a great interest in all technologies pertaining to aerospace, I would like to continue on working in propulsion and/or combustion related projects. I'm currently working on finishing my Ph.D. and would gladly continue to work with the talented people and important projects at NASA.

  4. Why did you choose to be a NASA Ambassador?

    Since these programs have been a great benefit to me in many regards — professionally, educationally and personally — I became an Ambassador to not only spread the word about these programs to other students but also to help spread the knowledge about the benefits of programs like these. I hope that others may have the same opportunities that I did and programs like this will continue to grow. I also want to encourage the younger generations to pursue engineering and other technical disciplines and to help open their eyes to the wide variety of interesting professions they may not otherwise know about.

  5. What are your future goals in the Ambassador Program and what are you looking forward to in the program?

    I am a proponent of STEM disciplines and education, and I hope that through this program I will get the opportunity to help inspire students to be excited about further education and advanced careers. I am looking forward to all the activities I can participate in that will help to encourage students at all levels.

  6. How has interning and being an ambassador at NASA helped you?

    While I could come up with a litany of reasons as to why these programs have helped me, it all boils down to education and opportunity. While the classroom is great for theory, getting involved in projects like this reinforce and enhance it. These experiences have also given me a wide background in experimental techniques and that hands-on knowledge that you can’t obtain any other way than simply 'doing'. Through these programs, I've had the opportunity to meet, get to know, and learn from engineers and all sorts of technical professionals here at NASA Glenn and elsewhere through conferences and meetings that these programs encourage.

  7. What events are you looking forward to in the Ambassador Program or what events have you attended that sparked your interest?

    I have had the opportunity to participate in a webcast with other professionals here at NASA Glenn in conjunction with NASA's Stennis Space Center in Stennis, Miss., where we were able to talk about our jobs and answer questions from students at schools around the country.

  8. What advice would you give to aspiring students who want to participate in the many opportunities NASA offers?

    Trying your best in school is always sound advice; embrace challenges and try not to let them overwhelm you. While certain things may be very hard or boring, the payoff is worth it; getting the chance to do what you dream about makes all the work seem insignificant in retrospect even if you have to try and try again.

    I would also tell students to explore all of the work and opportunities NASA has. There are many centers, branches, programs and areas of study. There are locations all over the country. It isn't all launching rockets into space; if you like biology or computers, NASA has that, too! Rather than just applying to a random student program with a generic resume, find out what you like and what current research is being done in that area. Express that interest because we want talented and passionate people here.

  9. What have you experienced at NASA that stood out to you the most?

    While my personal success in getting my igniter functioning (I have been responsible for the igniter from theory, computational simulation and experimental development) has been exciting, I do have to say that greater than that is the communal sense of duty and accomplishment. Everyone here, in all positions, wants to achieve our goals. From the team in my test cell who works together to insure that the system is the best it can be and to the larger task groups and branches who share their work and time with each other, it seems everyone here forms a community that wants to achieve.

  10. How are you going to motivate students to pursue a career related to STEM? What motivated you?

    I am doing my best to interact with students to answer their questions and discuss the opportunities out there. Most importantly, it is seeing what STEM disciplines can achieve that motivates people. For students, the classes and challenges they have to face in order to get to this point don't appear easy and looking at what we do seems complex and difficult. I won't deny that that is the case but by interacting with us and seeing what we have done they can learn that it is possible, that they can do it if they try, that it is the effort of many who help each other, and that the rewards far outweigh the difficulty.

    When I first started thinking about my future, when I was in high school, I had originally wanted to go into film. Creating special effects and computer images of advanced technologies and things sounded 'cool.' I hadn't considered this profession until I started taking advanced sciences and had teachers who said something along the lines of, "Why create something fake when you have the ability to actually create this technology?" That was the first time I'd realized I had the ability to do that and it interested me in engineering. I chose aerospace because, to me, there was nothing more exciting than working on frontiers like the fastest thing to fly or exploring further than we've ever gone.

-Reported by Aaron M. Greene, LERCIP intern

-Edited by Tori Woods, SGT Inc.
NASA’s Glenn Research Center