April 18, 2006
By Josh Blair
In eighth grade, Chris Dodson gained an interest in space and flight, making it his goal to one day earn his pilot's license and work for NASA. Now, Dodson, a senior mechanical engineering major at Ohio University's Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology, has already achieved both of those goals and is making giant leaps toward a full-time career with NASA.
For the past three summers, Dodson has interned at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center through its undergraduate student research program (USRP). Last October, he was one of the nine URSP students chosen to represent NASA in Fukuoka, Japan, for the annual International Astronautical Congress. Chris presented a poster there about his research with the design, construction and testing of an electromagnetic flow sensor to be used on an electric thruster feed system – "alpha^2" – being developed by Princeton and NASA.
Dodson spent part of his time there attending presentations and part in workshops with other students. "The workshop was a great opportunity to discuss space-related technology and policy issues with other students with the same interests," Dodson said. "It was amazing to travel to another country on the other side of the world and talk with other people my own age about space travel. That was probably my favorite part of the conference."
Dodson also got to meet Michael Griffin, the current NASA administrator, and attend a talk by William Gerstenmaier, head of the International Space Station Office. Not bad for someone's first visit to Japan.
But what fun would a trip be if it was all work and no play? After the conference, Dodson and the other students toured a Japanese temple and shrine and had dinner on a cruise in the bay near Fukuoka.
Besides being a great experience, the trip motivated Dodson to pursue his dream of making a career with NASA. "This trip really boosted my commitment to my goals," he said.
According to Mechanical Engineering Professor Bob Williams, the experience will be crucial to Dodson's future. "This experience will doubtless help Chris realize his dream of full-time employment at NASA," said Williams, who is a former NASA employee. "We are extremely proud of Chris' accomplishments, representing Ohio University, NASA, and the U.S. in this way."
After graduating, Chris plans to pursue a master's degree and then get "as much flight and engineering experience as possible," he says. And then eventually, Chris will "go back to NASA to work with the space program."
The Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, educates well-rounded professionals with both technical and team-project skills. The Russ College offers undergraduate and graduate degrees across the traditional engineering spectrum and in technology disciplines such as aviation, computer science and industrial technology. Strategic research areas include bioengineering, energy and the environment and smart civil infrastructure. Named for alumnus Fritz Russ and his wife Dolores, the Russ College is home of the Russ Prize, one of the top three engineering prizes in the world.