Kathryn Tomaszewski Completes Prestigious NASA Internship

The Project

As a senior physics major and native of Richland, WA, Kathryn Tomaszewski was awarded a summer internship at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland through the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The Goddard Center, located outside of Washington, DC., is home to the Nation's largest organization of combined scientists and engineers dedicated to learning and sharing their knowledge of the Earth, solar system, and universe.

The Goals

During this 10-week program, Tomaszewski had the unique opportunity to participate in research on obscure subjects like dark matter, dark energy and black holes. Specifically, Tomaszewski worked in the Sun-Earth Connection (SEC) branch. Her particular project involved the Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration (IMAGE) satellite, a spacecraft orbiting earth in the plasma of the magnetosphere. A magnetosphere is a highly magnetized region around, and possessed by, an astronomical object. Earth is surrounded by a magnetosphere, as are the magnetized planets Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

The Vision

Through these efforts, the team gained more knowledge of the physical behavior of the magnetospheric environment. She also learned how to program using MATHEMATICA software (a computational software program used widely in scientific, engineering, and mathematical fields and other areas of technical computing). Using this program she worked to describe the interaction of three plasma waves (by solving a set of three coupled partial differential equations).
“I really do enjoy being productive and knowing that I will have a completed project to add to my resume when I am finished,” said Tomaszewski. “It is certainly a feeling of satisfaction. Another upside to the internship is that I have the opportunity to make contacts within the Center, hopefully setting myself up for some good letters of recommendation or job opportunities in the future.”

The People

Kathryn Tomaszewski, 07’ physics graduate, Judith Totman Parrish (former dean of the College of Science and current professor in the geological sciences department).