Boise State added one more link in its expanding chain of NASA connections when it named former astronaut Steve Swanson a distinguished educator in residence. Swanson, who joined the university in late August, also is a Boise State Professor of the Practice.

“I am looking forward to being a part of the Boise State community and using my experience as a developer and user of cutting-edge technology to help the university continue the growth of its already wonderful research programs,” Swanson says.

Swanson, who has a Ph.D. in computer science, became an astronaut in 1998. His flight experience includes two space shuttle missions (Atlanta and Discovery) and a long-duration mission on the International Space Station (ISS).



He spent six months in orbit on the ISS in 2014, part of that as commander of Expedition 40. During a live downlink from space sponsored by the Space Broncos student group, Swanson spoke with Boise State students and the community, and demonstrated aspects of living and working in microgravity.

Thanks to the connections of former astronaut Barbara Morgan, who retired this fall after seven years as distinguished educator in residence, Boise State has forged extensive ties to NASA. These include funding for dozens of research projects ranging from accurately measuring the Earth’s snowpack, vegetation cover and volcanic activity, to searching the cosmos for possible Earth-like planets and exploring the role of microgravity on healthy bone growth.

In addition, NASA is a key partner in several academic and community outreach programs benefiting Boise State students and promoting STEM career goals among students who are still in elementary school or high school. The space agency also has funded many scholarships, fellowships and internships at NASA agencies across the country. Many of these internships are leading to satisfying careers for a growing number of Boise State graduates.



Photo of Brian Jackson in the observatory.
Photo of Brian Jackson in the observatory.
Brian Jackson, “Fossil Cores in the Kepler Data” for $100,876

NASA funding powers dozens of projects across the academic landscape from the expected (physics and engineering) to the unexpected (cancer research).

Projects you might expect:
Liliana Mellor, “The Effects of Microgravity on Cartilage Health” for $24,906
Joe Guarino, “Lunar Seed Repository” for $2,000

Projects you might not expect:
Julia Oxford, “Molecular Mechanisms of Cellular M” for $716,732
Lejo Flores, “Monitoring Earth’s Hydrosphere: Integrating Remotes Sensing,
Modeling and Verification,” $238,421

Education projects:
Barbara Morgan, “NASA K-12 CAN Summer Academy 2013” for $9,157
Microgravity University, $5,000
Several fellowships


Microgravity University
Over the past seven years, eight interdisciplinary undergraduate research teams have participated in this competitive program to design and test a reduced gravity experiment at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Zero Robotics Middle School Program — This joint MIT/NASA project introduces middle school students to computer programming, robotics and space engineering. Undergraduate students serve as mentors and organize and host the Zero Robotics Finals and STEM Celebration Day at Boise State.

Idaho Science and Aerospace Scholars
Following an intense online course, a select group of Idaho high school students participate in a week long summer academy at Boise State University and at NASA Ames Research Center in California. Led by the Idaho State Department of Education, the program was initiated by Boise State and includes Boise State pre-service teachers.

NASA Pre-Service Teacher Institutes — Eight pre-service teachers have participated in this intensive two-week program at NASA Johnson Space Center, Kennedy Space Center, Ames Research Center and Stennis Space Center. Participants learn to incorporate NASA’s cutting-edge research into lesson plans for elementary and middle school students.

Space Broncos — Begun in 2014 as a multidisciplinary class (SSPA397/497, Space Broncos Leadership Practicum) that included representative students from each of the university’s academic colleges, Space Broncos has transitioned into a club open to all interested students.


Where will you find Boise State graduates working at or with NASA?

Marshall Space Flight Center, Boeing, Stennis, Johnson Space Center, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Langley Research Center and Michoud Assembly Facility. Alumni include:

Mallory Yates (BS, mechanical engineering, 2012)
A design integration engineer at NASA Johnson Space Center’s Aircraft Operation Division working on the WB57 high-altitude jet. She helps with fixes for structural problems that arise due to corrosion or fatigue, and helps configure the jets to assist atmosphere scientists with payload experiments.

Mo Nguyen (BS, mechanical engineering, 2011)
A design and project engineer at Lockheed Martin in Houston, Texas, in the Landing and Recovery Systems group. She is working on NASA’s Orion project, on a system to aid in the recovery of astronauts after the capsule returns to Earth from Mars.

Dan Isla, BS, electrical and computer engineering, minor in computer science, 2009
Former engineer on the Mars Curiosity Rover, now a data scientist and development operations engineer in the Office of Chief Technology and Innovation in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Innovation Lab in Pasadena, California, where he is developing big data tools and visualizations for various JPL missions.
Jake Forsberg, BS, computer science, 2011
Former software designer for Moon Express Inc. headquartered in the NASA Ames Research Park in Mountain View, California. Now designs and implements embedded software for the private Planet Labs Dove satellites in San Francisco, with a mission to image the entire Earth on a daily cadence.


Where will you find Boise State students in NASA internships? Marshall Space Flight Center, Glenn Research Center, Boeing, JSC, Ames Research Park, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Langley Research Center and Goddard Space Flight Center. Interns include:

Jenni Domanowski, materials science and engineering junior
Spring 2015 internship at NASA Glenn Research Center and summer 2015 internship at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, where she investigated a dry lubricant for use on the James Webb Space Telescope set to launch in 2018. She is using X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy to investigate the behavior of a dry film lubricant when it is exposed to humidity.

Jacob Stein, electrical and computer engineering junior, Systems engineering. Summer 2015 internship with Boeing in Huntsville Alabama.

Carl Barcroft, electrical and computer engineering senior
Summer 2014 internship with Boeing Commercial Airplanes in Everett, Washington, and summer 2015 internship with Boeing Defense and Space group on the commercial launch vehicle, CST-100, in Titusville, Florida.