Student Features

Shanita Wilburn
Portrait - Shanita Wilburn Shanita Wilburn. 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 was fortunate to participate in the NASA Science and Technology Institute program for two consecutive years prior to being selected as an ambassador. In 2008, I was chosen to contribute to NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. through research. There, my research was "Analysis of Organic Matter using Raman Spectroscopy." In 2009, I was reestablished with NASA at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, and I performed research on "Analysis of Salt Tolerant Plants and Algae: Extraction and Characterization of Lipids from Chaetomorpha and Halophytes for More Efficient Jet Fuel."

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

    I am a recent graduate of Tuskegee University with a bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering and a minor in Mathematics.

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

    Currently, I am member of the 2010 NASA Glenn Academy — an extensive summer research group focused on learning the functions of NASA's operations. This program is for individuals who are interested in a career with NASA's space exploration mission or even working for NASA in other efforts in the future.

    My career goals are to continue my research at Glenn in the BioScience and Technology Branch and to attend graduate school and study Chemical Engineering. My back-up plan is to study Toxicology or Forensic Toxicology. Schools of interest are North Carolina State University, University of Florida, Duke University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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

    Unaware that the Ambassador Program existed, I was contacted and informed of this opportunity. Because I wanted to establish a greater relationship with the NASA community, this was a perfect fit.

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

    There are so many resources available within this distinguished program. I'm looking forward to utilizing many of these resources to collaborate and be a positive influence on the expansion and continuation of research at NASA and my institution of study.

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

    As part of the Academy, one of our goals is to promote NASA via an outreach program that's going to take place at a local elementary school and YMCA. Here, I am fortunate to be able to speak with younger children and enlighten them and be the connection between NASA and themselves: encouraging Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields of study. Hence, I'm grateful to broaden my horizons by not only having a technical background, but by being a leader as an ambassador also.

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

    The event that I am looking forward to attending is a webinar: The Mars Explorer, presented by John Callas, Project Manager of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover. I recently visited NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. and learned interesting facts about the next mission to Mars.

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

    Staying focused on your goals is key! Take advantage of resources at your school to ensure great opportunities in your future. Talk to your advisors, and let them know your interests. Also, many people are unaware that there are programs or internships with NASA for those as young as grade school. Finally, I cannot stress enough the importance of a STEM education. Even though it may be challenging, faith and determination are stepping stools to overcoming these obstacles.

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

    The crew of STS-125 visited NASA's Glenn Research Center during one of my summer internships. Interns as well as NASA employees were able to meet, receive autographed photos and take pictures of the astronauts. This session was telecast on NASA TV.

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

    Even though mathematics wasn't my best subject in grade school, my older brother was my motivation to become an engineer. Since I already liked chemistry, combining the two would be chemical engineering. For those who aren't too fond of math, but are highly motivated in engineering, my advice is to practice, discuss, and practice more.

    There is always help. A STEM education will provide many benefits for a competitive future.

-Reported by Aaron M. Greene, LERCIP intern

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