UH Hilo student awarded space internship

Melissa Adams
Melissa Adams

A University of Hawaii at Hilo student has been selected for NASA’s prestigious Sally Ride Internship.

Melissa Adams, a senior pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Geology, was among a select group chosen for the program, which awards only 10 internships during the spring and fall semesters of each school year.

The Sally Ride Internship was established in 2013 to encourage more students from underserved backgrounds to pursue a research interest at one of NASA’s centers nationwide and eventually enter careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The program named after the first American woman in space provides students the opportunity to work side-by-side with practicing scientists and engineers.

Adams, a native Hawaiian, was awarded the internship for joint research she conducted with Jacobs/NASA Scientist Trevor Graff and John Hamilton, logistics and EPO manager for the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems. The trio employed satellite imagery to identify specific geologic properties contained in basaltic lava located on Mauna Kea.

For Adams, a former PISCES intern, her selection is a dream come true that took a while to sink in.

“I am so busy with school work that the news about getting the internship did not phase me at first,” Adams explained. “But one evening in the middle of the night, I awoke, out of a deep sleep, startled and said to myself, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to be working at NASA this summer.’ I still cannot believe it.”

The 10-week internship begins in May and will reunite her with Graff and fellow NASA Scientist Dr. Richard Morris, who will serve as her mentors at the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Directorate at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Their research will involve a chemical analysis of the analog samples collected in Hawaii, with the findings used to support various robotic missions to Mars.

Adams will prepare samples, conduct instrumental analysis and assist with data analysis and interpretations using some of the most sophisticated instrumented research techniques, including Visible Near-Infrared Spectroscopy, X-Ray Diffraction, Optical/Digital Microscopy and Scanning Electron Microscopy.

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