Emily McMillon

Emily McMillonLamar University
Chemical Engineering

Since I grew up in Lumberton, Texas, a suburb of Beaumont, Texas, in the southeastern corner of the state. Like others in the academy program, I showed interest in space exploration and astronomy at an early age. Frequent school field trips to Johnson Space Center, a mere ninety minute drive from my small hometown, fed my interest level. I never wanted to be an astronaut as a child, but instead wished to work more behind the scenes in mission control or in a science or engineering field. I’ve always been especially interested in planetary science and astrobiology.

I had my first official experience with NASA during my junior year of high school through the High School Aerospace Scholars program. This involved doing online lessons, quizzes, and projects. The following summer, I and a group of other program participants worked together for a week at Johnson Space Center to design a mock manned Mars mission. The project split us into four team groups where each group worked on a specific aspect of the mission. My group was tasked with studying the habitability of Mars and designing living arrangements. This experience instilled in me an appreciation of the collaborative and design aspects of engineering and was the primary factor that led me to study engineering in my undergraduate studies. I loved the experience, and it led me to participate in the INSPIRE online learning program the following year. Through INSPIRE, I did a summer internship at Johnson with Lockheed Martin between my senior year of high school and first semester of college and got exposure to systems engineering and the contractor/NASA relationship.

My first year of college, I became involved with my university’s Microgravity Flight Team. Our experiment was selected, and I had the incredible opportunity to fly on the Weightless Wonder. My team proposed, designed, built, flew, and analyzed the final data of an experiment on the effect of electric fields on water droplets in microgravity. This was my first taste of the research experience. I was the primary writer for the proposal and technical report, and got experience in those areas much earlier than many of my peers. Following the project from proposal to flight to the final report gave me an appreciation for the research process as a whole, and made me realize just how difficult putting together an experiment from scratch can be. (Side note: the flight experience was incredible!)

In spring of 2013, I interned at Glenn Research Center and worked with polyimide aerogels under my mentor, Dr. Mary Ann Meador. This experience was life changing for me in that not only did I undertake life on my own in a big city for the first time, but I experienced a true research setting. I handled polyimide aerogels from fabrication to testing, and loved every second of the process, down to writing the report at the end. More than the actual research and work, I loved the environment at Glenn. I find the idea of a community of researchers working together to make progress toward bettering their fellow man immensely satisfying, and I felt this at Glenn. This experience convinced me to pursue graduate studies.

I am thrilled by the prospect of the Ames Academy, and count myself incredibly lucky to be able to call Ames home this summer.

I am currently a handful of credits away from a Chemical Engineering bachelor’s degree, which I will complete in the 2014-2015 school year. I plan to attend graduate school in 2015. Someday, I hope to be able to call myself a civil servant.

Outside of school, I enjoy swimming, running, watching television, and playing video games.