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OSU-Tulsa student to work on NASA project to protect against galactic cosmic radiation

As the International Space Station orbits 254 miles above Earth, its astronauts are kept safe from the sun’s radiation by something that research scientists develop in the lab – shielding against galactic cosmic radiation.

Without proper protection, astronauts would not be able to travel in space.

Unlike earth, where life is sheltered from radiation by the magnetic field and ozone layer, there is nothing in space to guard against high-energy particles fired at nearly the speed of light by the sun, black holes and supernovas.

Beginning in January, OSU-Tulsa doctoral student Korey Herrman will make her mark in galactic cosmic radiation shielding at the NASA Research Center in Langley, Virginia.

She will spend the 2018 spring semester with NASA researcher Dr. Sheila Thibeault developing new radiation-shielding materials specifically for long-duration space flights.

“In Korey’s case, she will work on developing and testing new radiation-shielding composite materials, including exposing them to conditions in an accelerator at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York under Dr. Thibeault’s guidance,” said Dr. Ranji Vaidyanathan, Varnadow professor of materials science and engineering at OSU-Tulsa.

Herrman is one of a growing number of OSU-Tulsa students who have worked with NASA and one of 2,000 students nationwide who are selected for a NASA internship each year.

NASA research interns are competitively selected based on the student’s background and recommendations.

“I had a lot of help from Dr. Vaidyanathan and his contacts,” Herrman said. “I was really shocked when I got the internship.”

Herrman earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at the University of Arkansas. She was drawn to OSU-Tulsa and the School of Materials Science and Engineering after reading an announcement about the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) offered at the Helmerich Research Center each summer.

While she had missed the deadline to apply for the REU, she kept OSU-Tulsa’s program in mind.

“I feel like I made the right choice by choosing materials science and engineering at OSU-Tulsa,” Herrman said. “I like the fact that materials science affects everything. I like learning how it impacts the world we’re in. And I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been awarded a NASA internship if I hadn’t come to OSU-Tulsa.”

Her career goal is to work at a national research lab.

“I’m not quite sure what I want to work on yet,” Herrman said. “I just enjoy the idea of doing research.”

The OSU School of Materials Science and Engineering is located at the Helmerich Research Center at OSU-Tulsa. To learn more about the OSU School of Materials Science and Engineering, visit the program website.

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Media Contact: Jamie Edford | 918-594-8024 | jamie.m.edford@okstate.edu