Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Geography grad off to NASA for summer internship

Erika Edgar
Erika Edgar, who received her B.S. in geography May 12, will begin an internship with NASA June 3 at Ames Research Center in California. The 10-week internship is part of the DEVELOP program, uniting NASA Earth observations with society to foster future innovation and cultivate the professionals of tomorrow by addressing diverse environmental issues today.

Edgar discovered the opportunity through NASA's Facebook page. "I had never read or heard about NASA's DEVELOP program before," she said. "They announced they would be taking applications for the DEVELOP summer program so I read the website and was amazed at the program."

After receiving a slew of emails for NASA student programs geared toward engineers and atmospheric scientists, Edgar was thrilled to find something that could apply to her education and interests. "I could not have been more excited," she said.

"It spoke to me and my studies. It is everything that I am looking for in an internship. It is extremely interdisciplinary and hands on. I hope to gain hands on experience using satellite imagery, collaborating with a team and how to efficiently promote free public scientific data. This program is all about bridging science with society."

Born and raised in Antioch, Calif., Edgar said she barely graduated high school and didn't think college was an option for her. She took community college courses in the arts off and on while working in retail for seven years, then decided there was something missing in life. She enrolled in a Geology 100 course at the community college. "It was like someone had ignited a spark in my brain," she asid. "All of a sudden I wanted to understand Earth's natural processes and how I could contribute in science."

After that, Edgar was off and running, taking biology, chemistry and mathematics courses. "I became dedicated to learning and researching what my next step should be," she said. She emailed professors at many different schools and through networking was introduced to Sarah Fowell from the UAF geology department. Eventually, Edgar visited the UAF campus. "I was really impressed and humbled by how Sarah, Rainer Newberry and Pat Druckenmiller all took time out of their very busy schedules to introduce us to the opportunities at UAF," she said. "Six months later my husband Alex and I were accepted to UAF, packed up everything we owned and drove from Antioch to Fairbanks in January 2011."

Edgar chose geography as her major because of the environmental studies concentration. "I wanted to learn about the atmosphere, geology, topography, soils, wilderness, anthropology and cartography," she said. "I love science, and I think geography encapsulates the interdisciplinary attitude I want to obtain. I have met some wonderful professors, faculty and friends in the SNRAS college and I could not be more excited to take what I have learned with me."

Edgar credited Terry Slocum, visiting geography professor, with helping her land the internship, as he wrote a letter of recommendation.

No comments: