Internships can be life-changing for college students, and Lander University junior Reese Williams’s experience this summer is a good example.
As a high school student, her best subject was math, so she became a math major at Lander, reasoning that she would always be able to teach, or get a job in a bank.
However, the Honors College student said, “I had a slightly different vision for myself. I’ve always been in love with space and rockets. My dream has always been to work in the space industry, designing spacecraft, or analyzing data for missions.”
Her fortunes improved when she met Professor of Mathematics Dr. Josie Ryan, who told her about some research experiences in astrophysics and aerospace engineering and convinced her that she should apply.
“I honestly didn’t think I would be accepted, because I was a math major, and I only applied for physics-related experiences,” she said. However, she was notified that she had been one of 10 Americans chosen to participate in a joint research project led by the University of Alabama at Huntsville and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC).
“I got to meet a lot of people that will remain lifelong friends,” Williams, who is from Red Bank, said. “I also got to work with rocket scientists on a project for a future satellite mission.”
She said that the mission will “answer some of the most urgent questions in solar physics that deal with extracting the density measurements of plasma in coronal mass ejections (CMEs). Access to this data could provide crucial information about energy fluctuations in CMEs.”
Williams said that her research experience made her “realize I could accomplish my dreams.” Because of it, she is now planning to go on to graduate school after she leaves Lander.
“My goal is to obtain a degree in physics or aerospace engineering. I also hope to one day work with my mentor from MSFC as a member of her team!” she said.
Williams thanked Ryan for putting her on the right track. “She believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself,” she said.
Ryan, likewise, spoke highly of Williams, saying she has a “determination to overcome every obstacle. When she has a goal, she pursues it relentlessly.”
Professor of English Dr. Lillian Craton, who serves as director of Lander’s Honors College, said that “Reese has accomplished so much, so fast. We’re incredibly proud of her.”