Every little kid has that dream to one day become an astronaut, said Brad Foreman ’18.
“My mom joked around and said I always wanted to be an astronaut, so I looked into things like aerospace engineering and jumped on it.”
He might not launch into space in the near future, but his sights are still set high. A physics major with minors in chemistry, biology, and mathematics, Foreman spent the first month of his summer interning at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. Although NASA takes interns from countless schools and diverse academic backgrounds, this particular opportunity came through his position as a cadet with SU’s ROTC program.
“I was one of six selected through the national ROTC to intern with the Astrobiology Department.”
Thrilled to accept the opportunity, Foreman admits he was wary of meeting NASA’s expectations. “At the beginning, I was absolutely not feeling prepared. I didn’t think it would go well. But they had asked me to send my course list ahead of time and didn’t give me anything I couldn’t handle.”
Foreman said this was the first year NASA specifically hired ROTC interns. A liaison between NASA and the Department of Defense launched the program so that cadets could take part in civilian research. Each had a mentor and a to-do list upon arrival. His first task was to write a seventeen-page literature review, which became the basis of his work during the internship.
Interns researched ways to simulate microgravity on biological systems at ground-based facilities. “If you have an organism, like an animal or plant, we wanted to know how it would react to microgravity, for example, on the International Space Station,” he explained. “What physiological effects would it have on an organism?”
Rocket launches are expensive, and the more weight you add, the more it costs, Foreman said. NASA wants to make sure that what they send into space can adapt to the conditions. Foreman researched simulated microgravity on fruit flies, having access to NASA’s full library. He described it as “a dream come true.”
“We simulated the conditions of microgravity on earth…then people looked at our research and determined if it’s something worth pursuing.”
Foreman said he has the intellectual property rights to the work he did with NASA and hopes to continue his research with professors at Ship. He also hopes to return to NASA, saying the internship confirmed that this is the type of career he hopes to follow. “I had to go to Fort Knox for ROTC training after the internship, and it was such a downer. I knew before I left for California that this (work with NASA) is what I wanted to do.”
The internship also helped Foreman identify academic areas that he needs to improve, for example, in mathematics. “I neglected my math because of my science focus. Now I see how important that is. I definitely need more math in there.”
ROTC cadets aren’t known as being STEM majors, Foreman said, so his mentor was impressed with his diverse science background. After this experience, he said, “The biggest takeaway is to continue the mission that I’m on.”
Once he graduates, Foreman will fulfill his commitment to the US Army, where he hopes to be a pilot. Afterward, his sights are set on the space industry, where the sky is the limit.