Physics Department News Archive

May 9, 2005

Fairmont Junior to Participate in NASA Research Program

SIOUX FALLS -- How things work fascinates Ashley Chipman. At Fairmont, Minn., High School, a career day aptitude test projected her as an engineer. She spent a day following engineers at Weigh-Tronix Inc., a scale and weighing Systems Company in Fairmont. Last summer she had an internship with the company.

"It was awesome how everyone had an important job and they all worked as a team to reach a common goal," Chipman said.

The test results may have prompted her to pick physics as a major when filling out applications for college. It's a choice she has stuck with at Augustana College, where she is completing her third year as an engineering physics major.

"My ultimate goal is a degree in aeronautical engineering," she said. "I'm not sure where it will lead, but I know I don't want to sit behind a desk. Working with other people on a project would be interesting to me," she says.

Encouraged by Dr. Eric Wells, assistant professor of physics at Augustana, Chipman applied for NASA's undergraduate student research program. The program offers undergraduates across the United States mentored research experiences at NASA centers. Minimum requirements include a 3.0 grade point average and specific coursework that includes technical fields of interest to NASA.

Chipman recently received notice her application had been approved. From June 6 to August 12, she will be at White Sands Test Facility (WSTF) in New Mexico and will be involved in improving computer programs used to prepare for propulsion tests.

She receives a $5,000 stipend, plus one round-trip airfare or ground transportation costs to and from the White Sands Test Facility.

"Ashley is a bright student and a very hard worker," says Wells. "This summer experience will add an extra dimension to her education."

WSTF is a preeminent resource for testing and evaluating potentially hazardous materials, space flight components, and rocket propulsion systems. These services are available to NASA, the Department of Defense, other federal agencies, universities, and commercial industry.

The primary mission of WSTF is to support NASA's Space Shuttle and Space Station programs. As the official Johnson Space Center propulsion systems development facility, the rocket propulsion program is a leader in propulsion systems testing, with unique test expertise in hypergolic propellant handling and training, and is the Shuttle Fleet leader for testing orbital maneuvering and reaction control subsystems.

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