Campus News

Students conduct research as part of NASA program

NASA DEVELOP 2013-h.env
From left to right: Jennifer Bell from UGA

When NASA is mentioned in everyday conversation, it is probably most often associated with landing on the moon, childhood fantasies of going to space camp or the discovery of unknown life on faraway planets.

But NASA does more than just study the rest of the solar system.

Earth is just as important to study, and NASA has a vast archive of data on Earth itself. NASA’s DEVELOP program helps college students and recent graduates, through paid internships offered year-round, conduct and run their own research projects using NASA-collected observational data about Earth.

UGA recently became a new collaborator in the DEVELOP program and, for the first time, 10 students from UGA spent the summer using NASA’s observational data to explore Georgia’s salt marshes, the ecosystem of bearded capuchin monkeys, the effects of debris from fire burning and the impact of a non-native insect on Eastern hemlock trees. The students involved from UGA were Steve Padgett-Vasquez, Shuvankhar Ghosh, Auryn Baruch, Ning Chen, Jeremy Mote, Andrea Presotto, Binita KC, Jennifer Bell, Jiaying He and Caren Remillard.

Remillard, a graduate student in geography, also was one of two people selected annually to receive a scholarship from Science Systems and Applications Inc., a NASA contracting organization that does payroll for the DEVELOP program.

UGA faculty members Deepak Mishra, Thomas Jordan, Marguerite Madden, Marshall Shepherd and Thomas Mote served as project mentors/advisers for the interns.

“It’s a great experience because it provides a paid internship and the students really take ownership of the projects,” said Padgett-Vasquez, who also is NASA DEVELOP coordinator for UGA. “Ultimately one of the goals is to increase the number of people using NASA observation data. NASA invests a lot of money and research on ways to monitor Earth.”

Lauren Childs-Gleason, the national science lead for DEVELOP at the National Program Office at NASA’s Langley Research Center, is pleased to have UGA on board with the program.

“It’s very exciting to collaborate with the University of Georgia,” she said. “We share the common goal of cultivating and enabling the next generation to apply science to make informed decisions to improve the planet around us.”