Heidi Beemer

Virginia Military Institute
Lexington, VA


Principal Investigator: Nathalie Cabrol
Project: Mars Habitability and Life Potential Through Mission Data Analysis and Exploration of Terrestrial Analogs

Education and Experience:

In 1997 I was eight years old. The Sunday paper had an iron stained panorama of a boulder-strewn Martian landscape. These photographs began a passion for exploration and discovery of the final frontier's unknowns that remain an integral part of me today. My dream is to become an astronaut geologist dedicated to our exploration of Mars. Even though Mars looked like a dead planet in my newspaper, I know that Mars truly is a very dynamic world that needs to be explored. I want to be involved in the forefront of our research on this mystifying planet; an opportunity that only the Ames Academy will give me. I want to see and experience what working for NASA is like firsthand and I am looking forward to working with the people who make it all happen, day in and day out.

Dealing with the daily challenges of being a cadet at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) has made me self disciplined, motivated, and relentless in the pursuit of my goals. Meeting the unique demands of the adversarial system hasn't always been easy though--After a full day of physical training, academic classes, and military instruction it is difficult to find the energy and hours to devote to my study of chemistry and astronomy. Life at a military college has certainly given me my share of hardships and headaches, but it has provided incomparable preparation for my future. VMI has taught me the perseverance and tenacity to succeed, the devotion and work ethic to see a mission to completion, the courage to lead and to follow, and an overriding sense of honor and integrity that guides my life.

I am a rising first classmen, or senior at VMI, and a Chemistry major and Astronomy minor. Currently I am conducting research, under the Chemistry Department Head Dr. Darren Timmons, on the luminescent properties of lanthanide metal complexes. I work in a lab for six hours a week synthesizing reactions and testing different properties of Europium and Terbium in an attempt to create luminescent crystals. This research has given me experience using different instruments including: Nitrogen Dry Box, Molecular Spectroscopy: Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy, UV- Visible Spectroscopy and Crystallography Single Crystal Diffractometer. I have just begun working on my Chemistry Honors thesis which deals with synthesis of metal bound flavone paddlewheel complexes.

In my Astronomy minor, I have gained experience working at the VMI Observatory, using our 20inch reflector telescope. In October of 2009 I led a team of students in a research project to follow NASA's LCROSS lunar mission. With the help of Dr. Topasna we were able to set up and capture CCD images of the impact crater. However, to our and NASA's disappointment we were not able to capture a viable image of the impact.

On The Side:

Surprisingly, I have time for extracurricular activities occasionally! I'm a NCAA Division 1 Goalkeeper for VMI's soccer program, a time intensive but rewarding opportunity to train and compete with an awesome group of women. Next year I will be Alpha Company's Second Platoon Lieutenant and the Vice President of the Cadet Equity Association. The CEA is a cadet government organization I have participating in for two years that is tasked with promoting equity in the Corps and prosecuting breaches of the Superintendent's Statement on Equity. I am also a newly inducted member of Gamma Sigma Epsilon, the national chemical honors society. Recently, I was the Cadet Assistant-in-Charge of the VMI Special Olympics Powerlifting Meet and I have also volunteered with Habitat for Humanity. On the weekends I have to march parade, I like to snowboard, and I love to catch on my sleep--when I can!

Future Plans:

In May 2011 I will graduate from VMI, earning a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with Honors and a Minor in Astronomy. The summer after graduation I will begin training to commission as an officer in the Air Force Reserve, fulfilling a long time desire to serve my country as a Citizen-Soldier. Afterward I will attend graduate school for Planetary Geology in order to obtain my PhD, focusing on the surface of Mars. Eventually, I want to work for NASA as an astronaut geologist. I know how fortunate I am to have received this extraordinary summer internship opportunity: I plan on making the most of this experience through both my participation in high level scientific research and as a member of the unique culture of the NASA team.