Math major completes internship at NASA Langley

By Kesha Williams

Jessica Hathaway lands NASA internshipJessica Hathaway has spent nearly a decade on ECSU’s campus as a student so she feels right at home.

Her journey began early, in 2007, as a participant in the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS), a program that brings middle school students to campus to learn how polar regions are changing. ECSU faculty and staff oversee a rigorous program that explores the Earth’s polar regions. The students learn to work with satellite images that reveal changes in glaciers that impact shorelines fear and far. Most of all, these middle school students begin learning how math and science courses are relevant to the research that is completed in university and government funded research facilities.

Over the years, Hathaway and other area youths, attended ECSU sessions such as Research Experience for Undergraduates in Ocean, Marine, and Polar Science, the annual fall Celebration of Women in Math and select math camps. Dr. Linda Hayden, a math and computer science professor and director of the Center of Excellence in Remote Sensing Education and Research, also oversaw those research programs and math camps. As a result, Hathaway was exposed to a host of math and science career options. When the time came to enroll as a college freshman, the choice was obvious--- ECSU.

“Working with Dr. Hayden programs helped prepare me so I knew what to expect from college and how to find internships. My parents are also big fans of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculums and they told me to follow my passion.”

Hathaway spends 40 hours a week at NASA Langley Research Center’s Office of Education as an intern. That facility provides instructional materials to teachers across the country as a means of endorsing STEM education and career planning. Her responsibilities at that facility in Hampton, Va., include guiding teachers to NASA produced videos that relate to the topics teachers are covering in class. NASA's Digital Learning Network offers interactive, education standards-based videoconferencing that adds a unique, NASA-authentic experience to teachers’ lesson plans. Video topics include Humans in Space, Our Solar Neighborhood, 10 Things About Rockets, and Roving on Mars. Hathaway, a prospective classroom teacher, said she can already imagine how she would use these videos in class.

In a year she will complete courses for her math degree then consider immediately entering a master’s degree program in elementary education. Her mother is an eighth grade science teacher so she is familiar with the demands placed on educators.

““I am glad I came to ECSU because they have a great math program and good mentors. If you need help with a question, professors are easy to work with. When I was younger, I didn’t realize how many career options you had with the math degree.

“You can teach, work in government or military laboratories. Math skills are also relevant to careers in aviation science. Anything is possible, even working for NASA with a math degree. The sky is the limit.”