AME undergraduate student, Robert Kunkel, represented OU in Washington, DC at NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center and at ANSER. Mr. Kunkel entered the AME program as a National Merit Scholar and is in his 3rd year of Mechanical Engineering with 18 additional hours for a pre-med emphasis and in the Honors College.
“I wasn’t sure how demanding the internship would turn out to be, but my experiences at OU, both in the classroom and in the practice facility made me confident that I was prepared to handle anything that I encountered,” said Mr. Kunkel.
He applied for the internship at NASA at the OU Job Fair. In the interview process, he was so highly regarded that they gave him 2 projects instead of one. He worked with the NASA NIAC team (NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts) at Goddard for a project analyzing all project proposal submissions from 2011-2015. The executives at NASA will use the data from his project for future planning and funding for their programs.
For Mr. Kunkel’s second project, he was loaned to ANSER, a high-level Washington think tank. He was the only NASA intern that did this. His project was to work with a well-respected and published researcher on radiation, Dr. Ron Turner, to research Mitigating radiation on long-term astronauts by sheltering in lunar lava tubes. He is also cited as a co-author on this paper that will be published and presented at a conference in 2017.
He achieved his security clearance for this work and socialized with some of the top scientists in the country as they came to Washington for the NIAC events. He also has personally read all NIAC proposals submitted by them since 2011. At the conclusion of the internship, NASA had a ‘Poster Day’ where all the interns display the results of their work over the summer.
In the future, Mr. Kunkel wants to work in research and development or possibly explore the private sector. He will pursue a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and is interested in biomedical engineering as an emphasis.