Marissa Cameron

Marissa Cameron
The University of Texas at El Paso
El Paso, Texas
Principal Investigator: Dr. Jennifer Heldmann


About me: Although I was born in Southern California, my family moved to El Paso, Texas when I was very young. Growing up in the southwest offered me plenty of opportunities to explore, and my family often visited nearby attractions such as Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands, NM. My dad is also an amateur astronomer and frequently took my younger sister and I out with the telescope. I can still remember the first time I saw Saturn through the telescope. I thought for sure my dad was playing a joke on me because of how perfect it looked. That sense of awe from learning about space has followed me from my childhood.

Education and Experience:

I started college as a pre-med biology major. Long story short, I hated it and dropped out. I started working full-time, moved out on my own and forgot about my childhood dreams. After a few years of frustration, I decided to take some evening classes at a local community college and happened on a geology course that reawakened interests I had set aside. I chose to pursue an undergraduate degree in Geology with a generous research stipend, and transferred to the University of Texas at El Paso where I graduated with honors. I worked for a short time on a seismology project, but jumped at a chance to do geophysical research on the icy satellites of Jupiter and Saturn with Ames Academy Alumni, Dr. Bridget Smith-Konter. I continued this research on Europa, Ganymede and Enceladus as I began my Master’s in Geophysics in 2012. I hope to defend my thesis at the end of 2013 in preparation for my move to the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa to begin my PhD in 2014.

Extracurricular Activities:

I spend a lot of time outside because of my classes, and I love traveling. I’ve spent time mapping in Death Valley, hiked up volcanoes (dormant!) and countless mountains in at least 5 states, and even done some rock climbing. I enjoy listening to and playing music and have a keyboard, guitar, bass, Irish whistle, trumpet and ukulele. I also make jewelry and draw when I can find the time.

I am looking forward to attending NASA Ames Academy this summer, it’s a dream come true. I’ve never had the opportunity to visit a NASA facility; the thought of working at one seems unreal. I am excited about meeting my peers as well as all the amazing people at NASA Ames. I hope to gain some valuable insight into the space industry and also sharpen my research skills. It’s going to be a great summer!