When Mid-South Community College student Crystal Daniel received notification of acceptance into a National Aeronautics and Space Administration summer program, she almost declined the invitation. Ten weeks later, she was very glad she didn’t.
“At first, I felt overwhelmed by the idea of going so far away from home,” she said. “I also felt that, as an educator in training, I had no place with the ‘geniuses’ at NASA. I actually almost rejected my acceptance into the program.”
But with encouragement from MSCC science instructor Grace Troutman, Daniel participated in the camp with fellow student Ina Brown and Mid-South instructors Dr. Azah Abanda (science) and Shermel Brown (mathematics).
“Ms. Troutman, my mentor and dear friend, offered wonderful advice and urged me to take the ‘once in a lifetime opportunity,’” Daniel said. “I was instantly swept up in a whirlwind of pure education and fun.” “Every single day was filled with pure excitement at the prospect of working closely with brilliant people and conducting research and experiments. Dr. Abanda was crucial to my success; he was always supportive and encouraged free thinking and exploration during the research and experiments.”
Daniel worked with Dr. Abanda and Dr. Leslie Prufert-Bebout on a project entitled “The Potential Use of Diatoms for In-Situ Resource Extraction in Space.” “Working on the diatom project was optimum for me, a biology lover,” Daniel said. “I was constantly in close contact with brilliant scientists and researchers in the Exobiology department, and I was able to collaborate with other interns from all over the world and learn about their various projects.” “I ended the 10-week internship with a bounty of new knowledge about exobiology, algae in space, in-situ resource extraction, and NASA as a whole. I learned an extreme amount from everyone I was in contact with.” Daniel, who graduated in spring 2013 with an Associate of Arts in Teaching degree from MSCC, said the experience was priceless.