Mark James

West Virginia University
Morgantown, WV

Aerospace Engineering

Principal Investigator: Dr. Butler Hine

Education and Experience:

When I was ten years old, my class read the book “October Sky” by West Virginian author Homer Hickam. It was from that point on that I knew I wanted to be an astronaut for NASA.

After graduating from high school, I decided to attend West Virginia University and obtain bachelor’s degrees in both aerospace and mechanical engineering. During my sophomore year, I was fortunate enough to be selected as a member of WVU’s Microgravity Research Team (MRT). This student-led research group develops, proposes, designs, and constructs an experiment to be flown aboard NASA’s Zero- G “Weightless Wonder” research aircraft. I learned much through this program as our team developed and built an experiment on magnetically controlling fluid slosh in microgravity. In my second year as a member of MRT, I was selected as Team Leader and headed a project based on electromagnetically enhancing a fluidized bed in microgravity. This time, I was able to experience weightlessness as our experiment was tested aboard the aircraft.

Between my two years on the MRT, I decided to expand my horizons and study abroad in New Zealand. I spent five months at Auckland’s Massey University studying mechanical engineering under several excellent professors. Weekends and breaks were spent traveling all around the country, seeing breathtaking sights from the Punakaiki Pancake rocks to Mount Nhauruhoe, made famous as “Mount Doom” in the Lord of the Rings movies. In addition to the education and sight-seeing, I also met several individuals who have become lifelong friends.

Back at WVU, I continued my education, and I will graduate in December 2012. After graduation, I plan to pursue at least a master’s degree in aerospace engineering, and I hope to one day be selected as an American astronaut. I believe that this NASA Academy experience will help me to further understand the space industry and how I can be an integral part in it.


In my spare time, I enjoy traveling, reading, and playing a variety of sports. I mainly focused on track and cross country in high school, but I recently have become interested in basketball, football, and ultimate Frisbee. I am a huge fan of WVU’s sports teams, and I strive to attend as many events as I can.