Tuesday, September 18 , 2018, 6:40 pm | Fair 72º

 
 
 
 

SBCC Grad on Launch Pad to Career in Space Exploration

SBCC graduate, Moriah Contreras, center, with fellow NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars.
SBCC graduate, Moriah Contreras, center, with fellow NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars. (Courtesy photo)

SBCC graduate Moriah Contreras is a self-confessed “Star Wars fan and space junkie” with hopes of having a career working for NASA one day.

So when she was selected as one of 280 students from across the U.S. to be part of a special NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) program this summer, it was a giant step toward making her dream become a reality.

As a physics major at City College from the summer of 2015 to spring 2018, Contreras became involved in the college’s STEM club (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

It was through the STEM Transfer Program coordinator, Adolfo Corral, that Contreras learned of the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars and of the authentic NASA experience offered each summer.

“When she became aware of NCAS she immediately applied because she was very interested in NASA and she knew she could take advantage of the program because the first five weeks were online,” Corral said.

During the five-week course, Contreras and the other community college scholars studied NASA missions, the solar system (and beyond), and plans for future Mars exploration.

As a final project, she wrote a paper that compared and contrasted the different in-space transportation systems and pathways proposed for human Mars exploration in the in the 2030s.

The course culminated with a four-day, on-site event at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. There, Contreras met an Apollo 13 astronaut, was briefed by NASA subject matter experts and toured an Aerojet Rocketdyne factory.

But most of her time was spent with her team, building, programming and testing a robotic rover prototype.

Contreras will be attending the University of Illinois at Chicago in the fall. Her goals are to work for NASA while she finishes her undergraduate and graduate studies and to go on to earn a Ph.D in astrophysics.

“My hope is to be a project scientist for NASA in the future,” she said.

“NCAS not only inspires community college students to advance in STEM fields, but it also opens doors for future careers at NASA,” said Joeletta Patrick, manager at the Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP).

“NCAS has a legacy of alumni moving from NASA internships to ultimately entering the NASA workforce. It is rewarding to see the progression of a student from NCAS participant to NASA colleague,” Patrick said.

Reflecting on her on-site experience this summer, Contreras said, “Being involved in the engineering and programming process was invaluable to me because as a young woman, I never thought I had the aptitude for STEM and especially engineering.

“I really hope other young women like me, who are interesting in science — but feel inexperienced — go and apply for NCAS. It forces you to gain the experience, and it really boosted my confidence.”

— Luz Reyes-Martin for SBCC.

 

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Email
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership
×

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >