National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Glenn Research Center

Spencer Dale Lane

Spencer Dale LaneOld Dominion University
Norfolk, VA
B.S. in Modeling and Simulation Engineering, Comp. Eng. Minor, ‘12

NASA Academy Research Project

  • Probabilistic Assessment of Space-Flight Medical Events

Principal Investigators

  • Dr. Beth Lewandowski
  • Dr. Jerry Myers

Hometown: Virginia Beach, VA


“Always look on the bright side of life” – Monty Python

When I was in 8th grade I was diagnosed with a chronic disease called Crohn’s Disease. This changed the course of my life and through numerous hospitalizations and medical procedures I’ve learned to be flexible and focus on the positive side of everything. I have come to realize that no matter how bad I am feeling, there is always someone worse off than me. I take the good with the bad and always strive to excel. Crohn’s has altered my life but not my determination and drive, hence at 17, I find myself entering my senior year of university and receiving the opportunity to participate in the NASA Academy.

Education and Professional Goals

I began my college career in 2008 at the age of 13, having gone directly from the 8th grade to university freshman. I am now 17 and entering my senior year at Old Dominion University (ODU) in Norfolk, VA. I will graduate with honors in May, 2013 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Modeling and Simulation Engineering and a minor in Computer Engineering. I am also a member of the ODU Honors College. After graduating I plan on attending graduate school for either Modeling and Simulation or Computer Science with a focus in Modeling or Artificial Intelligence. My goal is to achieve a doctorate in one of these fields before I turn 21.

After graduation I want to apply my knowledge to truly cutting edge scientific and engineering challenges, such as those NASA undertakes, and eventually to open my own Modeling and Simulation company.


I have participated in several research projects. For the past two years, I assisted Dr. Leathrum in developing example Mod Sim algorithms for his new textbook by writing advanced object oriented C++ programs.

In my sophomore year I participated in a paid engineering research project for the Department of Defense. We conducted individual and team research to evaluate potential threats to military air operations. My team and I then presented and defended our findings to a group of DoD subject matter experts.

In the spring of 2011, I assisted in research on ODU’s modeling of a “Virtual Operating Room” being developed by non-engineering graduate students. I provided technical expertise and programming knowledge.

I recently performed an individual undergraduate research project, under the guidance of Dr. Leathrum, designing and developing a dynamic test environment for discrete event simulation. I developed a conceptual model and began to implement this software. I wrote and submitted a paper to the Virginia Modeling and Simulation Center’s Student Capstone conference in April of this year. I presented my paper and, despite being one of the few undergraduate students, received an award for best paper in the Science and Engineering track. I will continue to develop and expand this test environment by extending the software to test distributed simulations and will present and publish my further work at a future conference.

This past summer, I received a paid software engineering internship at Alion Science and Technology. I worked on-site at the Naval Warfare Development Command assisting in the design and development of the Joint Semi-Automated Forces (JSAF) program. Throughout the summer I participated in several projects including the debugging of a major release version as well as the modeling and implementation of various military platforms. At the end of my internship, I was offered a part-time position as an Associate Software Engineer with more responsibilities for software development and debugging while working in a team environment. These positions meant that I was granted a Department of Defense secret clearance before receiving my Virginia driver’s license.

Extracurricular Activities

I am a member of the Society for Modeling and Simulation International (SCS) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Additionally I am a founding member and first president of the ODU chapter of SCS.

In the interest of helping some of my fellow sufferers of Crohn’s Disease, I have raised over $5000 for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America and try to help with improvements in patient care by participating as a member of the “Improve Care Now & Chronic Collaborative Care Network Patient Advisory Council.”

I love playing guitar and violin. I like to jam with my friends as well as playing and singing in the band at my church. I also dabble in ukulele and piano. I am an avid reader of X-men comics and have a terrible “Magic the Gathering” habit that I am trying to kick. I also like to scuba dive when able, but not near Virginia Beach … it’s too cold!


In addition to becoming independently wealthy by the time I am 35 by owning my own simulation firm, I want to play lead guitar in an indie rock band. Since I stand 6’7’’ I am unable to become a NASA astronaut but after making my first billion, I want to create my own space tourism company that will accommodate the vertically gifted. I also want to make the Guinness book of world records for owning the world’s largest dog.