NASA Intern to Students: Explore, Discover, and Apply!

Credits: Marvin Jones.

My name is Marvin Q. Jones, Jr. I am a PhD student majoring in astrophysics at the Indiana University Bloomington. I am currently interning at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and the title of my intern project is “Pulsed Fission Fusion (PuFF) Propulsion System.”

Name: Marvin Q. Jones, Jr.
Degree: Astrophysics, PhD student
Institution: Indiana University Bloomington
NASA Center: Marshall Space Flight Center
Project Title: Pulsed Fission Fusion (PuFF) Propulsion System

About my project:
PuFF aims to create a propulsion system that will take exploration to new levels with goals of missions to Mars, Alpha Centauri, and other deep space exploration. The PuFF concept makes use of mathematical and physics models in COMSOL to simulate feasibility and efficiency of various components such as the pusher plate nozzle and electromagnetic coil gun. Physically, the system will take in lower energy input, which will lead to a smaller, less expensive (hybrid) propulsion system. Lower energy input will translate into smaller capacitor banks and a smaller overall propulsion system. A smaller system would have far reaching applications toward other projects with NASA.

My journey to NASA and advice to students:
I have wanted to work for NASA since the 5th grade when my teacher, Mr. John Evans who currently works for NASA, taught my class to build a Mars terrain, and use LEGOs to build and program our own rovers. My internship strengthened my desire to be a computational astrophysicist for NASA and apply to become an Astronaut. Exploring space vehicle design, physics models, numerical simulation, and applications to space exploration was an experience I will treasure when I hope to someday see Earth from space. This internship helped me realize that my background, my village, and training fully prepared me to do the work.

Growing up in Newport News, VA, and living in Newsome Park, VA, which was where Dorothy Vaughn lived for a period of her life feels like a deeper connection to those formerly Hidden Figures who came before me. North Carolina A&T State University, my undergraduate institution, always taught me to explore, discover, and become anything I thought possible. North Carolina A&T didn’t teach me what to think but how to think, which for any intern is key. Thinking about problems and asking good questions is an artform that every intern at NASA needs in their toolkit.

Credits: Marvin Jones.

I think any student with a curious mind should give the internship program a try. No question I asked was too small or too great, experimentation with ideas was highly encouraged, the ability to contribute and be heard was appreciated, and the skills I gained are unfathomable. I would advise any applicant to assess their current skills and the skills they desire–speak on both as they apply. It is about being teachable just as much as it is about what you contribute. As I stare at the canvas of my future, NASA has given me new skills to curate a masterpiece. To students: explore, discover, and apply!