NASA opportunities discussed on campus



Tomas Gonzolaz-Torres is a former NASA employee and current Iowa State University professor and assistant director for the ISGC (Iowa Space Grant Consortium). He spoke on Nov. 28 about NASA internship opportunities.


This past Tuesday, Nov. 28, a group of about 15 students and faculty heard from former Space Station Flight Director Tomas Gonzolaz -Torres.  Torres is an Iowa State University (ISU) graduate with a BA in aerospace engineering.  As assistant director for the Iowa Space Grant Consortium (ISGC), Torres discussed research and internship opportunities with NASA, as well as research funding that the ISGC can provide.

“This is not just for engineering,” Torres said. “It is to see if your projects are related to the NASA mission.”

The ISGC has had participants from ISU and the University of Iowa (UI), as well as other schools, but are seeking more from UNI.  

Torres himself interned with NASA six times during his time at ISU.  He worked with NASA for two years, training astronauts for  spacewalks and working on the Hubble Space Telescope.  Torres also worked at Johnson Space Center but has returned to ISU to teach.  Since being back, he has worked with the ISGC as assistant director.  Torres is active in helping spread the word of how ISGC can help with funding for both undergraduates, graduates and faculty.

“I’ve had lots of experiences, and hopefully my background can help some of you get some more funding through ISGC or other things related to NASA,” Torres said.  

Jessica Wayson,  a senior majoring in all science teaching, also shared her experience with ISGC.  During her sophomore year, Wayson was involved with education research, which focused on how to be a better science teacher.

“The biggest finding [of the research] was science teachers who are involved with education research, and science research tend to have the best outcomes in terms of practices related to teaching,” Wayson said.

As a result of these findings, Wayson realized she needed to get involved in both.  After receiving an email about the ISGC, then called the Beta Project, Wayson found a way to get involved in science research.  Wayson applied for a scholarship that allowed applicants to be research assistants for a year. This opportunity provided Wayson with multiple field experiences.  

“There is that idea that science teachers teach science; they don’t necessarily do science.  That’s not something that I wanted to fall into.  Working with the astro chem lab I had the opportunity to not only participate in field and lab work, but to present research.  That’s something that I think was really amazing,” Wayson said.  “The biggest reasons for students to be involved or spread the word is that it has provided so many opportunities.  It is definitely something I think other students should look into as well.”

As a representative for the ISGC, Torres is touring ISU, UI, Drake and UNI.  Earlier on Tuesday, as part of his time at UNI, Torres visited  some of the labs in UNI’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) department.  

“STEM is about teaching those careers in a more integrated way,”  said STEM Coordinator Marcy Seavey.

STEM at UNI works with future teachers about how to authentically teach science and integrate technology into courses.