West Virginia University
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Department of Physics
Dual Bachelor of Science in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering – Minor in Physics – May 2009
NASA Academy Research Project:
Exploration Life Support Dust Mitigation Project
Dr. Juan H. Agui
Children grow up with a playful curiosity about the world. Their questions are simple, yet incredibly fundamental, as if they are seeking a pure knowledge to understand the universe. Then something happens; as they grow older, their keen senses lose focus and they become adults. Each goes to a different direction to pursue his or her own happiness. What they do not know is that their childhood sense of curiosity is still alive and awaiting to be awakened. Those who start asking questions again will find out that their old playfulness is now mixed with awe—a deep respect for the universe. I, like every other child, used to ask those simple questions—mostly space-related ones. However, a child’s question can sometimes go unanswered. I still remember those frequent silent moments when I did not hear an answer back. Eventually, I grew up, got too busy, and stopped asking questions for a while! Time passed by and then a few years ago, I realized that I could not ignore those unanswered questions of mine anymore. I decided to pursue my happiness by going after the answers, hoping that one day I would be able to contribute to our understanding of the universe.
I entered college to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering. During my freshman year at West Virginia University I decided to obtain a bachelor of science in aerospace engineering as well. Because of my performance as a freshman, the second year I enrolled as an honor student. My first sophomore semester, I took my next big academic leap. During a conversation about a math problem with my honors-calculus professor, I was encouraged to pursue a minor in both math and physics. Later that semester, I was invited to participate in the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition. The next semester, I registered for a minor in physics and decided to study math on my own.
In the beginning of my junior year, I was chosen as one of the eight members of the sixth West Virginia University Microgravity Research Team (WVU MRT6). The team submitted a proposal entitled “Investigation of Circular Hydraulic Jump Behavior in Microgravity” to the NASA’s Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program. The proposal was accepted, and we went on to conduct a very successful experiment and acquire a very useful data. The results were published in papers at both the 21st Canadian Congress of Applied Mechanics conference in June of 2007, and the 83rd Annual Meeting of the West Virginia Academy of Science. The team will continue to publish another paper at the AIAA’s 38th Fluid Dynamics Conference and Exhibit in June 2008.
My background in both engineering and physics, and my performance on MRT6, helped me to be selected for another research project with the WVU’s 2nd High-Altitude Research Team (HART2). This time, I was asked to help recruit the team as the team leader. HART2 submitted a proposal to the NASA-sponsored High Altitude Student Payload Program (HASP), which flies high-altitude balloon research experiments from the NASA Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility (CSBF). The experiment, entitled “Distant Aerial Cosmic Radiation Acquisition Package,” will measure the energy of the cosmic radiation at different altitudes, and is scheduled to do the integration process of the device in early August, and launch in early September.
Both of these two major research projects have helped me to learn more about the structure of NASA and its goals, while bringing me a deeper fascination for space exploration. To follow this fascination, I decided to apply for an internship with NASA Academy, and was very excited when I found out that I was selected for this elite opportunity.
Currently, the majority of my daily schedule is spent on expanding my academic knowledge. However, I also participate in many different student organizations. I am an active member of the engineering honor societies of Tau Beta Pi and Sigma Gamma Tau. I am also an active member of a non-profit humanitarian society called Engineers Without Borders (EWB). I and six other members of EWB spent this past spring break in Querétaro, Mexico to build a greenhouse. In my free time, I enjoy playing classical and electric guitar, sketching, running, snowboarding, rock climbing, racquetball, tennis, and soccer.
Educational and Professional Objectives:
My educational objective is to continue my studies by obtaining both my Masters and PhD in either High Energy or Theoretical Physics. I believe that the combination of the practicality of engineering with the theoretical knowledge of physics is going to prepare me for what I have set as my professional objective. My professional objective is to provide an interdisciplinary link between different fields of physics and engineering, and use this link to further space exploration. I believe that we are moving toward a new era in space exploration, and that NASA is at the forefront of this movement. I am sure that my experience in NASA Academy will be invaluable and align me with this movement.