Arlington resident interning at NASA

Arlington resident Natalie Spencer, who graduated from Grace Academy in Marysville, is interning this fall with NASA. - Adam Rudnick
Arlington resident Natalie Spencer, who graduated from Grace Academy in Marysville, is interning this fall with NASA.
— image credit: Adam Rudnick

HOUSTON — A former Grace Academy student is now an intern with NASA.

Natalie Spencer, daughter of George and Debra Spencer of Arlington, will be spending the fall at Johnson Space Center working with NASA’s Undergraduate Student Research Program.

Program interns are assigned a research and development program that aligns with their particular research field.

Spencer is working with the Materials and Processing Branch testing the structural mechanics of NASA’s next generation spacecraft.

“One of my projects was to test aluminum pieces to see if humidity is a factor in crack growth (and) it is,” Spencer said in an e-mail. “This is important because NASA’s rockets are always launched from Kennedy Space Center which has quite a bit of humidity.”

She said her duties also include testing the quality, strength and reliability of alloys and composites under the stress of aerospace applications.

Spencer is a junior at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla. She is slated to graduate in May 2011 with a degree in mechanical engineering with a robotics focus.

Spencer said she was chosen for the internship in earlier this fall after applying online and going through a phone interview.

“Being a USRP student is a 10-15 week experience, depending on which semester you do, working 40 hours a week at a NASA center,” Spencer said.

During the internship, students are encouraged to attend lectures by astronauts and others involved in the aerospace industry.

In 2007, Spencer graduated with valedictorian honors from Grace Academy in Marysville. She said she chose Embry-Riddle because of its strong engineering programs and its relationship with the aerospace engineering field, as well as its proximity to Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

So far, Spencer said she’s enjoying her time as an intern.

Because of her experiences with NASA, she recently changed her program of study from engineering physics to mechanical engineering.

“I’ve always wanted to be an astronaut, but I wasn’t sure what kind of engineering would fit me best until now,” Spencer said. “I know this NASA internship is the networking, career-making, unforgettable chance of a lifetime.”

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