National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Glenn Research Center

Michael Barton

Mississippi State UniversityMichael Barton

Starkville, MS

B.S. Aerospace Engineering, May 2012

NASA Academy Research Project:

CFD Analysis for Hybrid Wingbody Aircraft

Principal Investigator:

Dr. Meng-Sing Liou


Collierville, TN

Personal Statement

From a very young age, I was inspired by the manned space programs of NASA, both the historical Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, and the current Space Shuttle program. I was fascinated by the images from the Hubble Space Telescope, thrilled by the launch videos, bewildered by the magnitude of the universe, and amazed at the intricacy of the vehicles that allowed man to explore the vastness. I never had my heart set on going to space, but I wanted to be a part of the adventure, specifically to build the astoundingly monumental and impossibly complex vehicles that enable our exploration. I worked hard in mathematics and science courses while growing up, and after high school enrolled in aerospace engineering. I believe that America’s space program is going to lead the world into a new age of manned space exploration, and I want to be part of it. I do not care where we go, as long as we keep going.


During my undergraduate career, I have been honing my leadership skills. I am minoring in leadership studies, which has given me the chance to study politics, policy-making, leadership, and ethics, and systems engineering. I have held leadership roles in AIAA, Tau Beta Pi, Engineering Student Council, and the drum line.

This past year, I was President of the Engineering Student Council and one my larger tasks was leading Engineer’s Week, a national tradition that we celebrate at Mississippi State every February through a large-scale competition between the eight engineering departments. Hundreds of students and faculty compete in sixteen different events throughout the week to determine the “best major on campus.”

Planning for E-Week started in September, when the Council decided which events to hold. I created a small team with a leader for each event, and delegated the organizing and execution of the event to the leaders. I believe delegation is the key to good leadership, as long as one remembers that you can only delegate authority, not responsibility. While the event leaders worked on the events, my executive board and I worked on corporate sponsorship, marketing strategy, and cooperation with various offices in the Engineering College. I provided leadership for the events, marketing, budget, score-keeping, and also kept healthy relationships with our corporate and on-campus partners.

The execution of the events went relatively smoothly because of all the advanced planning and delegation, and student turnout was the highest in recent history. Afterwards, I produced a Lessons Learned document based on Council input so that some of the snafus we encountered can be avoided in the future. In addition, all of the event leaders now have valuable leadership experience that will enable future success of the Engineering Student Council. I believe that a leader who lets pride and ego get in the way of teamwork does not maximize the potential of his/her task or personnel.

Prior Experience

My current position at Mississippi State University is Undergraduate Research Assistant at the university’s SimCenter (Computational Simulation and Design Center). I am working on creating models and running simulations for CFD (computational fluid dynamics) analysis of UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) designs using unstructured meshes. This research position, which is in a similar vein to my work at NASA Academy, has allowed me to learn new systems and techniques while working on research that is helping the university.

I have also co-oped for a year at Kennedy Space Center with United Space Alliance, the primary contractor for Space Shuttle ground operations. As a Space Shuttle Guidance, Navigation, and Control System Engineer, I was able to work with Space Shuttle equipment and observe first-hand the methods and processes NASA uses to manage space hardware. During my time there, I wrote and edited testing and trouble-shooting documents, developed new software displays for the launch consoles, and even managed several testing procedures.

Future Objectives

After graduating in May 2012, I plan to pursue a Master’s degree in aerospace engineering. This will enable to me to delve further into a research topic of interest, such as in-space propulsion technologies. I plan to apply this knowledge and experience to NASA’s next human spaceflight program, no matter what that ends up looking like. I want to be a part of humanity’s exploration of the final frontier, and I believe that, fiscal and political climates pending, working for NASA is the best way to accomplish that. NASA will need researchers in all types of fields to solve the inherent problems that we face when we consider human travel to Mars, and I believe my education and experiences will enable me to be a valuable member of that team.

I am also very interested in space policy. I believe that I can make a difference to help our nation’s space program by working as an interface between engineers and policy makers, enabling our nation’s leaders to make better decisions concerning space exploration and other NASA interests. I think that the NASA Academy experience of traveling to many of the NASA centers and learning about NASA infrastructure will help me to better represent NASA in the space policy arena.