National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Glenn Research Center

Jonathan G. Barr

Jonathan G. BarrUniversity of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI
M.S. in Aerospace Engineering, May 2011
B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, May 2010
Minors in Physics and Mathematics, May 2010

NASA Academy Research Project:
Exploration of Life Support/Particulate Matter Removal

Principle Investigator:
Dr. Juan H. Agui


On December 17, 1903, two brothers took flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina at 10:35 a.m. On July 20, 1969 at 10:56 PM, a United States Navy test pilot touched foot on the dusty surface of the Moon. It took 65 years, 7 months, 3 days, 12 hours, and 21 minutes for powered flight to go from the back room of the Wright brother’s bicycle shop to the lunar surface. I am still amazed those early pioneers of aviation could advance aerospace science and technology that quickly. I hope to continue the tradition of my predecessors, helping to advance and push forward the man’s understanding of flight.

Engineering was a passion of mine from an early age. I grew up in Metro-Detroit, an area defined by the engineering profession. Every child on my street was raised on LEGOs and erector sets; every parent was working for the big three auto companies or suppliers. There was no tougher area for a fifth grader to compete in a science fair or pinewood derby. In this community math and science were not thought of as the dull, dry subjects of study, but as tools used to solve the technical problems confronting society. The history of Detroit instilled in me the unfaltering belief that there is a way to engineer a solution for the problems we face, and the goals we seek.

This is a fantastic time to be in the aerospace field. We are seeing the birth of the next generation of manned space vehicle, privatization of the space industry, and the development of fundamentally different aviation propulsion and structural systems. I hope to join this rapidly advancing field to push the limits of human understanding.

Research Experience

As a high school student, I participated in a physics Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at Oakland University. Throughout the summer of 2006, I studied carbon nanotubes in high-pressure situations with Raman spectroscopy. My project studied fundamental materials properties of carbon nanotubes, using Diamond Anvil Cells (DACs) and studying their scattered Raman spectrums. It was incredible that I could produce pressures in the DAC comparable to the center of the Earth and observe the response of electrons to individual photons. The project inspired me to pursue a career in research and gave me a foundation in math, physics, and research fundamentals.

In the summer of 2007, I worked in a REU in Computer Science at Oakland University on virtual reality training systems. My project worked on the development of a virtual hospital environment for nurse training using game theory techniques and I gained a broader understanding of product development. One other student and I had to conduct every facet of software development: design, storyboarding, graphics, coding, beta testing, and revision iterations. The project gave me a greater understanding of computer science and the engineering design process.

During the summer of 2008, I participated in a third REU project with the Space Physics Research Laboratory (SPRL) at the University of Michigan. I worked on designing and testing atmospheric measurement hardware for NASA Marshall’s and the University of Michigan’s Hurricane Imaging Radiometer (HIRad) project. I helped with some of the component testing, including a full frequency response analysis of HIRad’s analog to digital converter. I also built up the circuit boards and installed the components of the DetMit radiometer, designed to detect and mitigate radio frequency interference. The SPRL labs gave me experience in the “hands on” portion of engineering research. The HIRad and DetMit projects helped to advance my understanding in the application of science and mathematics to engineer devices to study the world around us.


My leadership is perhaps best exemplified with my experience in Scouting, and I earned my Eagle award in February 2006. For my Eagle project, I designed and funded map boxes along a nine-mile trail running through Oakland County, MI Leading the project was an eye-opening experience, as I was at the helm of almost every phase of the undertaking. Astronaut and Eagle Scout Jim Lovell once said that scouting, “…working together, being honest with each other, being close knit … and depending on one another, …all these things build [one’s] character … and makes him a much better citizen.” The skills and ideals I learned in scouting have provided me with a great foundation upon which I have built and can build my academic and professional careers.

Professional Objectives

I am interested in pursuing a career in aerospace research, which was inspired in part by personal interactions with the faculties of the University of Michigan and Oakland University. In pursuit of this goal, I am majoring in aerospace engineering with minors in mathematics and physics, grounding me with knowledge in both engineering and science and giving me a strong foundation for graduate school and beyond. I hope to dedicate myself to the discovery and implementation of practical and timely solutions to many of today’s unintuitive problems in the field of aviation and aeronautics.