Luz Reyes-Martin, Executive Director of Public Affairs and Communications
SBCC Graduate, Moriah Contreras (Center), with fellow NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars
As a Physics major at Santa Barbara City College from the summer of 2015 to spring 2018, Moriah became involved in the college’s STEM club (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). It was through the STEM Transfer Program Coordinator, Adolfo Corral, that she learned of the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars and of the authentic NASA experience offered each summer.
According to Mr. Corral, “When she became aware of NCAS she immediately applied because she was very interested in NASA and she knew she could take advantage of the program because the first five weeks were online.”
It was during the 5-week course that Moriah and the other community college scholars studied NASA missions, the solar system (and beyond), plans for future Mars exploration and more. As a final project, she wrote a paper that compared and contrasted the different in-space transportation systems and pathways proposed for human Mars exploration in the in the 2030s.
The course culminated with a four-day on-site event at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. There Moriah met an Apollo 13 astronaut, was briefed by NASA subject matter experts and toured an Aerojet Rocketdyne factory. But most of her time was spent with her team, building, programming and testing a robotic rover prototype.
Moriah will be attending the University of Illinois at Chicago in the fall. Her goals are to work for NASA while she finishes her undergraduate and graduate studies and to go on to earn a Ph.D. in Astrophysics. “My hope is to be a project scientist for NASA in the future,” she stated in a recent interview.
“NCAS not only inspires community college students to advance in STEM fields, but it also opens doors for future careers at NASA. NCAS has a legacy of alumni moving from NASA internships to ultimately entering the NASA workforce. It is rewarding to see the progression of a student from NCAS participant to NASA colleague,” said Joeletta Patrick, Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) Manager.
Reflecting on her on-site experience this summer, Moriah said, “Being involved in the engineering and programming process was invaluable to me because as a young woman, I never thought I had the aptitude for STEM and especially engineering. I really hope other young women like me, who are interesting in science -- but feel inexperienced -- go and apply for NCAS! It forces you to gain the experience, and it really boosted my confidence.”