Kevin Newman

University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ

Optical/Mechanical Eng.

Principal Investigator: Peter Jenniskens
Project: Airborne and ground-based observations of natural and artificial meteors

Personal Philosophy:

Passionate and diverse are the two words that most prominently come to mind when attempting to describe myself. Since childhood I have always been an explorer, filled with curiosity, a thirst for knowledge, and the spirit of adventure. These characteristics have sparked an interest in science for as long as I can remember. When I was eight years old, my family and I pioneered across the United States on a two month camping trip. One particular campground in Texas served as a host to my first awestruck gaze upon the night sky. I believe it was this moment which first inspired my fascination with space.

"We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality."
Albert Einstein (1879-1955) US (German-born) physicist

Education and Experience:

The sense of wonder embodied in that childhood camping trip has shaped most of my personal and academic pursuits. As an undergraduate at the University of Arizona in Tucson, I chose to study Optical Sciences and Engineering partially because of the appreciation which telescopes can provide for the past, present, and future of our universe. Upon graduation in May of 2011 I will also obtain minors in Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics.

My research experience started in the summer of 2007 at the Optical Sensors Laboratory of the University of Maryland. As an undergraduate researcher, I fabricated and tested optical pressure and strain sensors to be applied to Army rotorcraft (a NASA funded project). The experience of working in an optical laboratory setting led to a NASA Space Grant internship with the Center for Astronomical and Adaptive Optics. The project involved verification of mirror quality produced by glass slumping techniques, and measurement of the efficiency of fullspectrum photovoltaic cells. My initial Space Grant project advanced into an additional semester in which I was awarded the opportunity to lead a team of student researchers.

In the spring of 2009 I embarked for a semester of study abroad in Ireland. During my tenure I researched the establishment of an image capturing system for centrifugal micro-fluids. This exciting area of biomedical optics could lead to an integrated commercial lab on a disk platform.

The following summer I participated in a DAAD Research Internship in Science and Engineering (RISE) in the small town of Siegen, Germany. I designed and constructed an infrared diode laser and an atomic beam source for the purpose of trapping ions in a miniaturized surface trap. As an introduction to research in quantum physics, this experience has helped me understand physical optics and their real world applications. Continuing my year in Europe, I joined a group of senior engineering students at the Slovak Technical University of Bratislava. We developed a computer controlled camera inspection system for automated Zebrafish larvae tracking. Upon return to Arizona, I was elected leader of the project.

The extremely rewarding study abroad experience included the opportunity to absorb several foreign cultures, learn new languages, and become familiar with research practices at European universities. During my term I traveled as much as possible and spent time with the local people, learning things about all areas of life which could be found in no textbook.

Goals for the Future:

After graduation in May of 2011, I plan to pursue a Master's Degree in Optics with the possibility of continuing formal education towards a PhD. One of my primary interests in the Academy is to pursue research for the sake of understanding our universe. I find the Terrestrial Planet Finder and Kepler missions of particular interest. My courses in CodeV optical design programming have helped me to understand the process of telescope design and optimization, and I hope to contribute to NASA's mission of space exploration by designing space telescopes in the near future.


During the weekends, I spend most of my free time with outdoor activities. After years of hiking, fishing, rock climbing, skiing, boating, and scuba diving, I feel that I have explored some of the land and sea. My next ambition is to explore the air, so I plan to continue taking flying lessons in pursuit of a Private Pilot's License when time and funding permits. One day, I hope to explore part of space as a NASA astronaut.