Alexander Jarnot is a senior chemistry major who participated in NASA’s Student Airborne Research Program (SARP) during the summer. He spent eight weeks in California learning about atmospheric science.
According to the program’s website, students get hands-on research experience in all aspects of a major scientific campaign, from detailed planning on how to achieve mission objectives to formal presentation of results and conclusions to peers and others.
“I applied for this internship because I am interested in working for an agency like NASA for my future career, and by interning for one, I knew it would grow my network and give me access to recommendation letters that would be valuable when I went to find a job and apply to graduate school,” Jarnot said.
The internship included flying in the NASA DC-8 research plane, riding in the chase car during an ER-2 research plane takeoff, tours of NASA laboratories, lectures from prominent scientists and the opportunity to work with top scientists in airborne research.
The NASA DC-8 research plane trip was a six-hour flight through the San Joaquin Valley. The plane flew at about 1,000 feet most of the time but reached a maximum altitude of 40,000 feet during an air column spiral. To prepare for the flight, Jarnot and his colleagues took a tour of the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center hangar and underwent a flight safety briefing where a variety of safety equipment was demonstrated.
“During the flight, my research partner and I collected air samples using the Whole Air Sampler, which uses a bellows pump to suck air in from outside the plane and into vacuum canisters stored on the plane,” Jarnot said. “These canisters were then transported to the Rowland-Blake lab at University of California, Irvine where my research group and I analyzed them for 99 trace gases using a wide array of gas chromatography instruments.”
Jarnot also took tours of NASA laboratories such as the Dryden Flight Research Center, the Palomar Observatory and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, as well as universities such as the California Institute of Technology and the University of California, Irvine. Some prominent scientists he heard speak were Mike Brown, the man who “killed” Pluto, and Kirsten Siebach who works with the Mars Curiosity Rover.
In addition to this, he had the experience of meeting some of the top airborne research scientists, including Bruce Doddridge, Barry Lefer and Jim Crawford of NASA Langley; Emily Schaller of the National Suborbital Education Research Center; Don Blake from the University of California, Irvine; Sally Pusede from the University of Virginia; Dar Roberts from the University of California, Santa Barbara; Raphael Kudela of the University of California, Santa Cruz; Randy Albertson, deputy director of the NASA Airborne Science Program; and Henry Fuelberg from Florida State University.
“I had the pleasure of getting to know these people as professionals, as well as in casual settings,” Jarnot said. “I also had the pleasure of meeting 31 other brilliant students from all over the United States and getting to know each and every one of them.”
Jarnot credited his Hood College academics and the career center for preparing him for this internship.
“I could not have gotten into this internship without the education and experience I have received at Hood,” Jarnot said. “I utilized my chemistry background from my courses and prior internship here at Hood in order to complete my research project at SARP. I also called upon my math education from Hood in order to analyze and organize the raw data from the canister samples in order to discover meaningful results.”
Jarnot said he used the skills he learned from the career center to more effectively network with the scientists and NASA management that he met at SARP, and he has already sent his résumé to a hiring manager from General Atomics who he met during the internship.
To view a video of Alex Jarnot presenting research findings during the program, visit www.nserc.und.edu/sarp/sarp-2016/2016-student-presentations/whole-air-sampling/the-atmosphere-of-crystal-cave.
Pictured above: Alex Jarnot with a member of his research group, Julia Black of Scripps College, during the DC-8 flight