National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Glenn Research Center

Kylee Underwood

West Virginia University
Morgantown, WV
B.S. Physics and Mathematics, May 2010
M.S. Physics, May 2012

NASA Academy Research Project:
Solar Power for Solar Probe

Principal Investigator:
Geoffrey Landis

Glenville, WV


Personal Statement

The first time I experienced NASA was through a gifted education program in elementary school. Our instructor brought in a model space shuttle printed on card stock. I remember as a second grader cutting around the perimeter as carefully as I could. I scored the fold lines with scissors and tried to work with the utmost precision. Later that year we watched a space shuttle lift-off live on TV. I was enamored! In fifth grade, I took a course through the same program about space. For fun we learned about some of the training activities that the astronauts went through, and mimicked them ourselves. That year for my birthday, my parents signed me up to go on a day mission with the Challenger Learning Center in Wheeling. It was the highlight of my life for the longest time afterward! During elementary school, I emailed NASA consistently, asking for educational materials, pictures, information, anything they had about their programs. I am surprised that they kept answering my emails and sending materials! I remember how excited I always was to receive mail from NASA and how it came in strong, soft, and thin white paper envelopes.

As a young scientist, I have become very interested in the simulation aspect of science and its predictive nature. I enjoy programming simulations as it is exciting to see how a series of simple algorithms can come together to explain physical principles that would otherwise be difficult to understand. For this reason, I am pursing a PhD in an area of computational physics. Though I am interested in solid state physics, I find simulation work in general interesting and have a strong desire to keep an open mind about my work and explore many different areas in which simulations can be used as a tool.

With two computational research experiences under my belt, I am convinced that this is what I love to do. I have only started on my lifelong adventure of learning and discovering, and I could not be more excited about what lies ahead. My future plans are to become a flexible part of the solution and help to solve the crucial problems of the world as they arise. Whether that takes me further into academy, industry, government, or a mix of all, I have yet to discover.

As I have gotten older, I have followed the advice I received from NASA: take lots of math and science; enjoy it; try to excel in it! I am very proud to be an honors graduate with degrees in both math and physics. I am also very honored to be a recipient of a NASA Undergraduate Research Fellowship from the state consortium. Attending NASA Academy is both a huge honor for me and a step towards bringing my childhood dream to fruition.


As much as I enjoy science and research, I have many outside interests. Through high school I performed in three choirs and was a member of 2 state choirs. I participated in forensic speech competitions, four school plays, and multiple county-wide writing competitions. Although I chose to study science and math in college, I still try to find creative outlets both inside and outside of my field and enjoy fiddling with a guitar, singing, participating in educational outreach and giving presentations as a direct result.

Most of my other interests revolve around my love for the outdoors. Camping and climbing, I have found are great ways to spend free weekends. I recently received a hiking pack as a gift and I am really looking forward to planning my first backpacking trip this fall. I would love to one day attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail from start to finish. My passion for nature is also a drive for my research. I would like to contribute to technologies that will help preserve our world so that it can continue to be a playground for many generations to come.

The Importance of Outreach

It is clear from my personal statement that I was recruited into the field of science from a very early age. I was excited by the possibilities presented to me through my teachers, science centers, and other outreach. In this time of great competition from countries around the world, it is essential that we continue to excite the imaginations of future generations. As science continues to advance, more and more questions become necessary to explore. For the future of this nation and the world, we need to raise our children up to be able to answer these questions. These naturally curious beings must, however, be aware of the possibilities in front of them and the achievability of their dreams. Through outreach to them, I want to enable children to grow up reaching for the moon, Mars, Titan, and beyond.