Prof spends summer shooting for the stars at NASA

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Summer vacation is a time for Students to get away from all that pesky schoolwork and spend their spare time on hobbies and interests. 

How Jared McCallion spent his summer was a unique experience, to say the least.

McCallion, a junior disaster preparedness and emergency management major with a minor in geographic information science, was one of 13 students selected to go to Houston, Texas for the Planetary Science Internship Program. The Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) runs the program with NASA which they’re partnered with, providing the students with a stipend and free housing during the entire duration of the program. 

Growing up in Port Saint Lucie, Florida before moving to Erial New Jersey, and graduating from Timber Creek High School, McCallion always had a feeling of what industry he envisioned himself working in, but he didn’t always think it was possible.

“I’ve always been called into the direction of the space industry, but I never realized the breadth of career choices in the field until recently,” McCallion said “Coming out of high school I was under the impression that the space industry was only for physicists and engineers, and unfortunately I didn’t perceive myself as very mathematically inclined.” 

So, what changed McCallion’s mind and made him go back to pursuing the space industry? A simple intro to a geographic information science course at Rowan.

“It was mostly by accident,” McCallion said “I realized that the principles and skills I learned from my programs of study could be applied to the space industry.”

This began McCallion’s search for internship opportunities, where he soon found the application for the Lunar and Planetary Institute’s Summer Internship. This opportunity would allow him to gain valuable experience, work with professional mentors on the job, and give him the ability to work on his own research projects. 

“I was ecstatic,” McCallion said after finding out about his acceptance to the program. “Due to the competitive nature of the internship it felt like a shot in the dark…Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to spend the summer immersed in the field of planetary science.”  

When McCallion and his group landed in Houston, they were able to walk inside the Johnson Space Center and get an up close and personal view of all the different facilities in the center.

“We had the opportunity to visit the various facilities, including the Robotics lab, Lunar Sample Lab and Systems Engineering Simulator and Impact Cratering Lab.” McCallion said. “The work being done at these facilities showed me what is really possible within this field.” 

There were many highlights to this experience. One in particular was a project that McCallion and his mentors were working on, which involved finding locations for spacecraft to land on Earth’s Moon.

“We analyzed the physical characteristics of the lunar surface in a defined area surrounding the landing module of 16 previous successful lunar landings,” McCallion said. “Developing a set of parameters capable of informing landing site selection activities for future missions.”

Although McCallion was doing what he dreamed of since high school, he did face one challenge. 

“I Discovered that although I loved every second of what I was working on, I was experiencing a degree of burnout. In the process of making the most out of the experience, I hadn’t afforded myself time to decompress,” McCallion said.

So, what did McCallion do to work through the burnout he was experiencing?

 “I took a lot more time to appreciate my current circumstances and worried less about making my research projects “perfect” and more about making it the best I could,” McCallion said.

Since the Internship ended, McCallion is now involved on campus and works for Rowan’s Housing department as a Community Assistant. This is what McCallion had to say when asked about his long-term goals after getting to work with the Lunar and Planetary Institute.

“I would like to continue studying and eventually work in mission science doing remote sensing instrumentation development,” McCallion said “The research experience I gained has prepared me for graduate school. I hope I have the opportunity to continue doing undergraduate research.”

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