The best learning experiences are the ones that teach us something new about ourselves. For Thomas Edwards, a physics student and UA scholar, his internship at NASA during the summer of 2013 proved to be just such an experience. (click photo to continue story)
During his internship as part of the Langley Aerospace Research Student Scholars (LARSS) project , Edwards worked alongside Dr. Daniel Weimer, a space physics expert. While the project Edwards worked on was small and in a sub-field of physics he lacked experience in, he was able to take the project and make it his own. “It was a real confidence booster,” he said.
Over the summer, Edward's had the opportunity to see how NASA worked from the inside, as well as what research was being actively pursued. The internship gave Edwards the chance to be a fly-on-the-wall at one of the nation’s great research institutes, while also getting his hands dirty in the heady world of physics.
Edwards was also impressed with the LARSS program staff, adding that they were fantastic and supportive. They were also understanding, allowing him to enter the program a few weeks later to accommodate Edwards' early summer plans. He meshed well with his roommates and made sure to have fun outside of NASA on the weekends. Overall, he was floored by the internship. “The experience was great!” he said.
For Edwards, the internship was a summer-long field test of his skills and research ability. He jumped into an unknown research environment and landed skillfully on the other side. “I came out of it feeling accomplished and confident,” Edwards said.
In addition to studying physics, Edwards is also minoring in computer science and mathematics. With most of Edwards' work being in numerical simulation, he often has the chance to bring all three fields together. At the end of the day, Edwards takes pleasure in solving problems. “There's a certain rush you get when you finally get a simulation working and producing results no one has ever seen before,” he said.
In the near future, Edward's will finish a research project with UAF professor Dr. Channon Price, while also applying for graduate school. He intends to work toward a PhD in either physics or engineering. Staying true to his passion, Edwards hopes to find a program with a heavy numerical modelling focus.
Name: Thomas Edwards, Undergraduate Student
Institution: University of Alaska Fairbanks
Mentor: NASA Langley
Award: NASA Internship
Funding Period: 2013